Between all of the injuries last week and the fact that week 9 is the heaviest bye week of the season, lots of owners were put behind the eight ball this weekend. And if you weren’t before, maybe you are now, after Ben Roethlisberger, LeSean Mccoy, Dion Lewis, and Latavius Murray went down with injuries. Whatever the case may be, another week brought even more craziness. Don’t believe me? Blaine Gabbert outplayed Matt Ryan. The Titans scored 35 points. Antonio Brown had 284 yards! Eddie Lacy resorted to eating teams’ fantasy points! OK, OK, just kidding. Let’s get into all of week 9’s madness.
Bengals 31, Browns 10
Anyone still expecting Andy Dalton to revert to last year’s form should accept the fact that he is one of the top QBs this season. Against the Browns, he added 3 TDs (and zero INTs) to his season total. Much of Dalton’s success seems connected to the emergence of TE Tyler Eifert, who caught all 3 of Dalton’s TD tosses. Eifert leads the league with 9 receiving TDs, and according to Adam Schefter, Eifert’s 9 red zone TDs are the most through the first half of a season in the past 15 years. Think of Eifert like Denver Julius Thomas: the yardage is not eye-popping, but he is a TD machine, who specializes inside the 20s. Just one more interesting bit about Eifert: According to Pro Football Focus, Eifert has the highest run blocking grade of any TE – I know that isn’t rewarded in fantasy, but that only makes him harder to guard, as it isn’t always clear when he’ll get the ball, compared to a TE to only comes in for passing plays.
Unfortunately for the rest of the offense, Eifert’s large share of the red zone pie eats into everyone else’s production. Most noticeably, A.J. Green has struggled to find any consistency. He finished the game with 53 yards, and through 8 games, and he now only has two games over 100 yards. It was actually Marvin Jones who led the Bengals in receiving yards with 78 yards, while third WR Mohamed Sanu scored off a 25 yard reverse. Despite not producing noteworthy numbers, it’s worth keeping tabs on Jeremy Hill, who has at least 15 rushes in three straight games now. The Bengals are not giving up on Hill. They have not abandoned Hill, and he could be a sneaky guy to target before the trade deadline. Meanwhile, backfield counterpart Gio Bernard contributed 84 total yards. This is a loaded offense, and the diffusion of productivity can be frustrating at times, but it’s a good idea to have Bengals shares heading into the fantasy playoffs.
I wish there was as much to say about the Browns as there is for the Bengals. But really, there are only a few guys worth highlighting. Travis Benjamin had a tremendous first third of the season, but his regression is well in motion. For three consecutive weeks now, he has failed to tally 50 yards. Star TE Gary Barnidge also had a disappointing week with just 35 yards to account for, and both Barnidge’s and Benjamin’s low totals are at least partly attributable to Johnny Manziel playing, as Josh McCown sat with a rib injury. Manziel looked good on the Browns lone scoring drive, right before halftime, but he finished the game having completed less than half of his passes. The Browns ground game is completely nonexistent, as I’m sure Isaiah Crowell are well aware by now. But, RB Duke Johnson is intriguing in PPR leagues. The only RBs with more receptions than Johnson are Theo Riddick, Devonta Freeman, and Danny Woodhead. In leagues rewarding receptions, Johnson is a good starter.
Bills 33, Dolphins 17
What a difference a healthy Tyrod Taylor and Karlos Williams make. After missing two games with a knee injury, Tyrod Taylor had a near perfect game with only one incompletion – 11/12, 181 yards, 1 TD with 10 rushes for 44 yards as well. Karlos Williams also made his return to the field, having been sidelined for the past month with a frightening concussion, and he exploded for 2 TDs and 110 yards off of only 9 carries. Williams joins an exclusive club of players who have scored a TD in the first 5 games of their career.
The other half of Buffalo’s thunder and lightning running attack, LeSean McCoy, had to leave the game early with an injured shoulder. He claims he’ll be good to go next Thursday, but Shady has been hampered by injuries all season long, and with Karlos Williams running so well, it looks to be about a 50-50 split at best right now for the upcoming week. The fantasy game ball went to Sammy Watkins, who caught passes of 63 yards and 44 yards (the latter being a scoring play) and totaling 168 yards. Watkins has only played 4 games, but he has scored in 3 of them. If he is healthy – that is a big if – he is a strong starter.
After a couple of dominant performances under interim coach Dan Campbell, the Dolphins have come back to Earth lately. Lamar Miller was the only Dolphin with a great day. He had 141 total yards (97 through the air) and 2 TDs. He is a strong RB1 for the rest of the year. The rest of Miami’s offense was disappointing. Ryan Tannehill threw for over 300 yards, but no TDs. And he fumbled twice, losing one. His favorite target Jarvis Landry had 11 catches… for only 69 yards. Rishard Matthews, who has been enjoying a surprising breakout season, was only targeted 4 times, though he caught every pass that went his way. In the past months, we’ve seen two great performances by Miami’s offense and two bad performances. The truth is probably somewhere between those two extremes.
Panthers 37, Packers 29
In his best game to date, Cam Newton reminded everyone why he’s called Superman. Cam threw for about 300 yards, 3 TDs and an INT, while also rushing for 57 yards and a TD. It’s tough to think of any QB who does more with less than Cam. I mean, everyone knows Greg Olsen is a good TE, but after him, we’re talking about Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, and Philly Brown. By the way, Olsen scored a TD, along with 66 yards. Cotchery had barely over 100 yards on the season, but he had 82 yards. Funchess had only 90 yards on the season, but he chipped in 71 yards and a TD that caused Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to get into it with Julius Peppers and B.J. Raji on the sideline.
The lone disappointing performance on the Panthers side of the ball came from Jonathan Stewart, who, coming off three straight good games, had an inefficient day with 66 yards off 20 carries. Two last things about Cam…. Isn’t it funny how he rates worse than Peyton Manning, Kirk Cousins, and Ryan Mallett among others, according to ESPN’s QBR? And secondly, no, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are not basically the same player. Just had to get that off my chest.
This game was a blowout for most of the day, before a late rally by the Packers. Heading into the second half, the Panthers led 27-7, and it looked like another fantasy clunker for everyone on the Packers. But Aaron Rodgers, almost entirely because of the second half, submitted his best fantasy game of the year. He had 369 yards and 4 TDs, along with an INT that came on the game-clinching play (followed by this amusing reaction on the sideline). He also added 22 rushing yards. The Packers’ rally in the second half began with Randall Cobb 53 yard bomb. Yes, I said Randall Cobb! Remember him? Good to see him back on the radar. He had 99 yards and a TD, and that is his best performance since his 3 TD game against the Chiefs back in week 3.
James Starks had 122 total yards, 83 of which came in the air, including his 29 yard TD. And I would be remiss to mention Starks’ name without at least passing mention to Eddie Lacy, who at this point, should be spoken of the same way Mike Tyson refers to “Omar” in The Hangover. Lacy was generous enough to only take one point away from his owners this week – “No Eddie, my team’s points aren’t doughnuts, stop taking them!” – leaving the game early with a groin injury, after fumbling. In all seriousness, we knew these last two weeks would be tough for Lacy. It doesn’t get much tougher than Denver and Carolina. Maybe he’ll be there for the stretch run if you can weather the storm until then. Or maybe I’m just being overly optimistic because I own him. James Jones continued his painful regression, only catching two balls, while the other Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, scored two TDs. Lastly, Davante Adams, now finally healthy, had 93 yards on the day. He could a sneaky target heading to the end of the season.
Jets 28, Jaguars 23
Everyone who you would suspect played well on the Jets, did in fact, play well. Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t excite fantasy owners, but he is nothing if not consistent. He never wrecks your lineup, and that type of consistency is often overlooked. He threw for around 270 yards and 2 TDs – the classic game-manager QB. He will rarely win you your week, but he won’t be the reason you lose. His favorite targets Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both scored. Decker had maybe the most Decker line ever: 79 yards and a TD. He always seems to have 5-7 catches, decent (albeit, low ceiling) yardage, and a score. Marshall had 44 yards and a TD that, even if after several reviews, looks iffy. But it counted, and that’s all that matters. The biggest disparity between real life and fantasy performance goes to Chris Ivory. He had an atrocious 23 carries for 26 yards, but he scored 2 TDs. He also added 22 receiving yards. Marshall remains a WR1, and Ivory an RB1. Fitzpatrick and Decker are both solidly consistent options that their respective positions.
A few weeks ago, Yahoo’s Brandon Funston raised the question of which WR pair you’d rather have: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders or Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Nine out of 10 people would have said the first pair, no question, but right now, it’s hard not to say the Jags duo is superior. Allen Robinson is a superstar, period. He is on pace for 1,414 yards and 12 TDs. He held his own on Revis Island with 122 yards, while his continually underrated counterpart Allen Hurns had one yard fewer and a TD. Hurns is on a similar pace to the tune of 1,370 yards and 12 TDs. Eerily similar. These two guys are studs. Start them every week, and you’ll be happier in your life.
You know who else is a (fantasy) stud? Yep, Blake Bortles. Everyone knows he turns the ball over too much – he had two INTs and a lost fumble on Sunday. But 380 yards and 2 TDs and 32 rushing yards ain’t too shabby. Despite no scores, T.J. Yeldon had a nice day with 101 total yards, while Julius Thomas has fallen into the dreaded fantasy abyss in the last few weeks.
Vikings 21, Rams 18
After not scoring for the past month, Adrian Peterson got back on track with 125 yards and a TD. That, despite the first subpar game from rookie Stefon Diggs, who led the league in yards per route last month. Diggs was expected to struggle against the Rams, who have one of the league’s toughest defenses. His schedule the past few weeks has been generous and it tightens up here moving forward, so it would be wise to temper expectations a little bit. Also, if you are invested in Diggs, make sure you closely monitor the status of Teddy Bridgewater, who suffered the scariest hit of the day. While sliding, Bridgewater was hit by a diving defender’s elbow. Bridgewater laid on the ground unconscious. The play angered Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer enough that he gave Rams coach Jeff Fisher the fly-by during handshakes. Zimmer also called out Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and alluded to Williams’ days in New Orleans, when he was suspended for BountyGate. It was a horrific hit that caused Bridgewater to leave the game with a concussion.
In a game featuring the league’s premier RBs Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, it was a kicker that stole the show. Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein kicked 4/5 field goals, of which one was 61 yards and another was 53 yards. We can keep it short on St. Louis. By now, everyone kind of knows what the deal is here – Todd Gurley was good again, and the rest of the offense was not. Tavon Austin is too inconsistent to comfortably start. One week he breaks a couple long plays, the next week he’s invisible. There is really no one on the Rams offense you can trust except for Gurley.
Patriots 27, Redskins 10
This game was over by the end of the first quarter. At one point, the Pats had run 23 plays, and the Redskins had run one play. The biggest story of the day though was the loss of Dion Lewis, who suffered a knee injury that may or may not be a torn ACL. He is getting an MRI that will reveal the extent of the damage. LeGarrette Blount had 29 carries for 129 yards and a TD, and his production was not just a result of Lewis’ injury, as Lewis did not go down until the third quarter. Even if Lewis has a serious injury, the Patriots always hold a between-the-tackles RB like Blount and a pass-catching RB like Lewis, so it’s difficult to see Blount’s usage dramatically changing. Tom Brady had 299 yards, 2 TDs and an INT, and that is basically his floor. Which is incredible. Leading the Patriots in the air was Brandon LaFell, topping 100 yards for the first time this year. What is especially intriguing for LaFell owners is that the Pats seem committed to giving him a steady dose of targets. Julian Edelman had another nice outing with 55 yards and a TD (though he did have a fumble), while Rob Gronkowski had his weakest start of the year with 47 yards.
There is almost nothing to report on in Washington. Things are really bleak. OK, so the receivers had seven drops. And three of them came on Kirk Cousins’ first three passes. How’s that for getting off to a good start? The run game was totally nonexistent and it now feels like the days when people thought Matt Jones would be the waiver of the year came in some sort of alternate universe. And, Good God, have there been any Alfred Morris sightings in weeks? Don’t worry about Alfred, he’s not with us no more. The closest thing to fantasy relevance is Jordan Reed, who despite a case of the dropsies, at least had a garbage time TD.
Titans 34, Saints 28
Two things we learned: Ken Whisenhunt was a bad, BAD coach, and the Saints defense is the worst in the league. After missing a couple games with a sprained MCL, Marcus Mariota torched the Saints for over 371 yards and 4 TDs. Second time this year he’s thrown 4 TDs in a game this year – rookies don’t usually do that. The biggest beneficiary was TE Delanie Walker, who had nearly 100 yards and 2 TDs. One of those TDs was a complete fluke. Rookie Dorial Green-Beckham had his best game as a pro, and while it’s difficult to get excited about anyone on the Titans, Green-Beckham is an athletic freak of nature who could be a worth a speculative add in leagues where he’s not already owned. While Antonio Andrews didn’t score, he did have 18 carries for 88 yards. With that kind of volume, he is worth a start if you’re thin at RB.
Though the Saints lost the game, Drew Brees had his second straight monster fantasy outing. He almost reached 400 yards with 3 TDs and an INT, while also rushing for a TD too. Willie Snead is not an exciting player, but he produces more often than not. He nearly caught for triple digits. Meanwhile, don’t look now, but Brandin Cooks is slowly shaking free of the bust label. No one will view him as good pick, considered how early he was taken in most drafts, but in his last five games, he has went: 5-107-1, 4-41, 6-81, 6-88-2, 4-71-1. Put him in your starting lineup, if he’s not already there. Benjamin Watson racked up 60 yards, and RB Mark Ingram had his second straight game without a TD, despite his team putting up lots of points. He did, however, have 96 total yards.
Steelers 38, Raiders 35
Don’t underestimate how dominant Antonio Brown is with a competent QB. With Ben Roethlisberger back (for most of the game), Brown had 17 catches and 284 yards. Even more remarkable, despite almost having 300 yards, Brown somehow didn’t find the end zone. Though, I doubt his owners are too upset with that! Speaking of Big Ben, he left the game in the second half with what a mid-foot sprain that will cost him a couple weeks. It’s just as much a shame for Brown as it is Big Ben, since we know what happened to Brown’s production the last time Roethlisberger went down.
Le’Veon Bell DeAngelo Williams had 225 total yards and 2 TDs! Remember, when Bell sat the first two weeks for his suspension, Williams was the top overall RB. Losing Big Ben is a huge blow to this offense, but Williams is a top 10 RB. Though sitting on a doughnut for most of the day, Martavis Bryant finished with a respectable outing because of his impressive slalom-like TD. Though he did drop a deep bomb that could have gone the distance.
By now, people realize the Raiders offense is legit. Derek Carr belongs in your starting lineup, as he now has 11 TDs in his last 3 weeks. He had over 300 yards, 4 TDs and an INT today. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper did most of the damage. Though Cooper receives more of the attention, it is Crabtree who is the team’s top WR in terms of targets, and his production is very similar to Cooper’s. Crabtree found the end zone twice and he topped 100 yards, while Cooper scored once to go with his 88 yards. The second scariest hit of the day left Latavius Murray completely limb, seemingly unaware that he had just fumbled the ball. The hit has yet to be diagnosed as a concussion, but it sure looked like a concussion. He was just about to eclipse 100 yards on the day before the hit.
Giants 32, Buccaneers 18
Though he was unable to find the end zone, Odell Beckham Jr. had another 100+ yard game. That was about half of Eli Manning’s yardage total, as tossed for a little over 200 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. The TDs went to Shane Vereen and Rueben Randle. The Giants’ running situation is probably one to be avoided, unless you’re beyond desperate. Right now, Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen are all splitting carries. Even if you’re desperate, you can probably find something better than a four-way timeshare.
If you only saw the box score, you would think Mike Evans had a great day, but he dropped more passes than any player has in a game in the last decade. And on the last play of the game, with the Bucs having to go the full length of the field, Evans caught the ball and desperately lateraled it backward to keep the play alive, but the Giants recovered it and returned it for a TD. It was a fitting ending for Evans, and perhaps that was the fantasy gods’ way of penalizing him for all those drops. Doug Martin also had a fumble, and that cost him playing him, as he sat on the bench for most of the game, while Charles Sims rushed for 78 yards off 8 carries. Jameis Winston had a solid day, rushing for 24 yards and a TD on top off about 250 yards passing.
49ers 17, Falcons 16
BLAINE GABBERT OUTPLAYED MATT RYAN. Sorry, I didn’t mean to blurt that out. I just couldn’t contain myself. OK, so yeah, like I was saying, Blaine Gabbert shocked everyone with a competent performance. Aside from a couple picks, he threw for almost 200 yards and 2 TDs as well. Vernon Davis had a huge impact on this game. Because, as everyone (no one) expected, Davis’ replacement Garrett Celek scored 2 TDs. There were other players on the Niners who racked up some yards, but I doubt anyone owned them or even knew they existed.
This is the more interesting side of the game. Don’t listen to anyone who just sees the box score and tells you al is well with Matt Ryan. It’s not. He looks awful out there. He can’t finish drives. The offense is painfully conservative. If you can go elsewhere at QB, go ahead. Hurry! Seriously, Ryan has 12 TDs now through week 9. It’s one thing to be patient. It’s another to be insane… you know, doing the same thing and expecting different results. We know what we’re getting with Ryan now, and it’s not good. Devonta Freeman is coming back to earth. He had a poor game on the ground with 12 yards off 12 carries, though he 67 yards and a TD out of the air. Meanwhile, Julio Jones, now on pace for over 1,800 yards, had 10 catches for 137 yards. If you’re a Julio owner, trade him before the playoffs if you can. He draws Josh Norman twice, and the offense is trending the wrong way.
Colts 27, Broncos 24
Most sane people who owned Colts players sat them this week against Denver’s lockdown defense. But, Andrew Luck looked like the guy everyone thought he was at the beginning of the year. He didn’t turn the ball over (!!), and he had over 250 yards and 2 TDs. T.Y. Hilton, who was a game-time decision and assumed to be out, led the way with 82 yards, while WR Griff Whalen (exactly, who?) had over 70 yards. Frank Gore had nearly 30 totes for 83 yards and a TD, while his backfield mate Ahmad Bradshaw caught a short TD. The Colts are on bye this upcoming week, and this could be the last chance to buy low on them.
In the first half, high voiced Peyton Manning showed up. But he turned it on (his voice changer, I mean) a little bit in the second half, tossing a 64 yard TD to Emmanuel Sanders, who finished with over 100 yards a TD. Again, newcomer Vernon Davis had a huge impact on this game. As everyone (no one) expected, his fellow TE Owen Daniels notched over 100 yards and a TD as well. Demaryius Thomas had his worst game of the season. Because of game flow, the Broncos run game was nonexistent. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning the Broncos defense, which returned a punt for a TD as time expired at the end of the first half! Star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. may have sustained a concussion, and any investors in the Broncos defense should stay tuned on his status because he’s one of the best corners in the league.
Eagles 33, Cowboys 27
The Eagles offense finally put some points up on the board, though Sam Bradford only threw one TD to go along with his 295 yards. After disappointing all year, Jordan Matthews finally turned in a good game. For the first time since the season opener, Matthews topped the century mark. He had 133 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray had over 150 total yards and a TD, and Ryan Matthews had just under 70 yards and a TD. It’s difficult to tell if this is fool’s gold, or if there is some buy low potential here.
Shockingly, Matt Cassell had a great fantasy start that exactly zero people on earth benefitted from. Cassell was a yard shy of 300 to go along with 3 TDs and a pick. Two of those TDs went to
Wes Welker Cole Beasley, who finished with 112 yards as well. And in Dez Bryant’s second game back from his broken foot, he got back on track with over 100 yards and a TD. Jason Witten added 43 yards. There is no ambiguity in the Dallas backfield. Darren McFadden is the guy, and the only guy. He had 27 carries for 117 yards. Tony Romo should be back in a couple weeks, so if, by some miracle, he is on your waiver wire, now is probably the time to go ahead and stash him on your bench.