Analysis by Adam Pfeifer
Pure, unadulterated hell.
Oh, no. I wasn’t talking about my Week 8 (though it was horrible). No, I’m referring to the fact that six teams are on a bye for Week 9, and many of the teams have a ton of fantasy superstars on their rosters. And while it may seem like hell, part of me does enjoy the challenge. Whoever has depth survives, and having so many teams on a bye shows which owners are wise when it comes to analyzing matchups for lower-owned players that suddenly most be thrust into the starting lineup.
We’re halfway through the season. Yikes.
Week 9 byes: ATL, BUF, CHI, DET, GB, TEN
Alex Smith vs New York Jets- Smith didn’t have the game I was hoping for on Sunday, failing to score a touchdown. However, the Chiefs didn’t need him to do a whole lot, as the defense only allowed seven points all game. With some elite fantasy passers off for this week, Smith makes for an outstanding plug-and-play option against the Jets this week. No defense in football has been more vulnerable against the pass, allowing a league-high 22 scores through the air, while only picking off one pass all season long. Meanwhile, only the Rams have allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks thus far, and New York is allowing a league-leading 2.8 passing scores per game to this point. Not to mention Smith provides you with a handful of rushing numbers, and you have a pretty solid floor in this awesome matchup.
Cam Newton vs New Orleans Saints- Cam is coming off back-to-back poor outings, but he should bounce back on Thursday night against the Saints, who haven’t been playing very good defense, but especially on the road. They are allowing 2.2 passing touchdowns per game when away from home this year, and only the Cardinals are coughing up more passing yards per game than the Saints (289.3). He also has 36 rushing attempts over his last three games, so it’s good to see him 100 percent committed to running with the football, too. The Saints are also allowing the 9th-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers this year, and on a short week, I think Cam can definitely exploit this matchup.
Colin Kaepernick vs St.Louis Rams- The last time Kaepernick squared off against the Rams, he went bonkers, throwing for 343 yards and three scores. St. Louis’ secondary is banged up, and simply put, bad, allowing more fantasy points per game to passers than any other team in the NFL, coming in at almost 22 per game. Coming off a bye week, Kaepernick is fresh and ready to go, and should be a borderline top-five fantasy option this week. With plenty of weapons at his disposal, look for the 49ers’ quarterback to have another very nice outing.
Ronnie Hillman @ New England Patriots- New England’s offense has been stellar lately, but their rushing defense hasn’t been up to par. They have allowed nearly 1,000 rushing yards on the season, to go along with the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs (22.53) and backs are averaging 4.6 yards per carry to this point. The Patriots have been especially bad against the run since losing Jerod Mayo in the middle. New England has allowed an opposing running back to score in three-straight contests, and with this game having the highest over/under of the week, plenty of points should be had. And don’t worry about Juwan Thompson scoring twice last week. Both touchdowns came off fullback dives, so Hillman should still see goal line work in an offense that averages over three red zone chances per game.
Ahmad Bradshaw @ New York Giants (Start of The Week)- Ah, the good, old fashioned revenge game. To this point, Bradshaw has been one of the most consistent running backs in all of fantasy football, posting the fifth-most fantasy points among running backs after not even being drafted in most leagues. He’s 6th in the NFL in touchdowns scored, and his presence in the passing game has been awesome, catching 31 balls for six scores. He is constantly targeted by Andrew Luck when in the red zone, and no team in football has averaged more red zone scoring attempts per game this season than the Colts (4.6). The Giants, meanwhile, just lost Jon Beason and have already been torched by running backs, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to rushers (23.04). Opposing backs are also averaging 5.4 catches per game against the G-Men.
Mark Ingram @ Carolina Panthers- As the lead back in New Orleans, Ingram thrived on Sunday night, rushing the ball 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown, and, according to ESPN, posted a career-high 92 yards after contact. Ingram played a whopping 55 snaps in this game, while Travaris Cadet played sparingly, being on the field for just 14 snaps. Ingram will get all of the short-yardage and goal line work, even when Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson return. Running backs tend to play well on Thursday night, and the Panthers defense has been bad all year long, allowing 135.2 rushing yards per game (5th-most).
DeAndre Hopkins vs Philadelphia Eagles- Number one rule of fantasy football? Pick on the Eagles secondary. Philadelphia is sporting a touchdown-interception ratio of 15;3 and were just torched by Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on Sunday. They have allowed seven different receivers to finish as a top-12 fantasy wideout, and their corners are very, very bad. The Eagles are allowing the 6th-most fantasy points per game to opposing pass-catchers (26.52) this year, so DeAndre Hopkins is in a terrific spot. And in their three road games this year, Philadelphia has surrendered seven touchdown passes.
Rueben Randle vs Indianapolis Colts- Coming off the bye, Randle is ready to roll against a Colts defense that just allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for over 500 yards and six (!) touchdowns. Vontae Davis is banged up, and this defense has out-performed expectations to this point, if you ask me. Randle is Eli Manning’s favorite option in the passing game, as he’s on pace for over 130 targets, posting at least nine looks in each of his last five games. The Colts are now inside the top-10 in passing scores allowed this year, and the Giants should have to throw a lot to keep up with Andrew Luck.
Terrance Williams vs Arizona Cardinals- Oh, look. Arizona’s secondary got worked again last week, surrendering over 400 passing yards on the day, while Jeremy Maclin absolutely had his way with this unit. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s Tony Romo or Brandon Weeden under center for the Cowboys this week, but I still think Williams is a very viable option in this game regardless. The Cardinals have been that bad against wideouts, allowing nearly 27 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, good (or bad) for the 5th-most in the league. And as I eluded to in last week’s column, opposing number two receivers have seen great success against Arizona this year, and while Riley Cooper didn’t score last week, he did have a respectable five for 88 yards.
Larry Donnell vs Indianapolis Colts- Donnell may be difficult to trust, especially after fumbling twice two weeks ago, but he still caught all seven targets for 90 yards. With the tight end position being rather ugly, I think it’s hard to get away from him this week against the Colts, who are allowing over 10 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and allowed Heath Miller to eclipse 17 points a week ago (week ago). Again, the Giants are going to have to throw quite a bit. Let’s just hope Daniel Fells doesn’t troll us all again.
Travis Kelce vs New York Jets- I personally never recommend Kelce because his playing time is up in the air, but when this guy touches the football, he is crazy good. He also was about half a yard shy of scoring a touchdown last week, and if I love Alex Smith this week, I think Kelce will benefit against this weak Jets pass defense. Tight ends have scored nine touchdowns against the Jets this season, and only three defenses have coughed up more fantasy points to the position this year.
49ers defense vs St.Louis Rams- No Brian Quick, an ugly running back situation and a rested 49ers defense makes for a good option this week. In Week 8, the Rams scored an early touchdown in the first quarter, but failed to score a single point the rest of the game. San Francisco scored a strong 14 fantasy points the last time these two teams met, and San Francisco is improving on that end. They are a safe top-seven option for Week 9.
Joe Flacco @ Pittsburgh Steelers- After Flacco’s monster five-touchdown performance against the Bucs, Flacco has combined for fewer than 20 fantasy points during the two games since. Now he faces a Steelers defense on the road, a bad combination for Flacco. Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t the same, but they’ve held Flacco to less than 220 passing yards over their last six meetings with him. Steve Smith is regressing a bit, Torrey Smith is coming off a concussion, and even with six teams on a bye, I think there are a few better alternatives than Flacco this week.
Ben Roethlisberger vs Baltimore Ravens- Staying in the same game here, how can you bench Big Ben after one of the greatest quarterback performances of all time? Well, first of all, he’s not doing that again. He’s just not, although, Ben is the only passer in NFL history with two 500-yard outings. Also, Baltimore has been very tough against quarterbacks thus far, allowing the 7th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers this year. I see this Sunday night game as a low-scoring contest where Ben will be lucky to post 16 fantasy points.
Darren McFadden @ Seattle Seahawks- While McFadden appears to have emerged as the number one back in Oakland, the team did mention that they wanted to get Maurice Jones-Drew more involved, and he did get nearly 10 touches last week. Either way, you don’t want any part of this backfield, including McFadden, who will have a tough matchup against the Seahawks, who have allowed just two running backs to find the end zone over their last nine home games.
Doug Martin @ Cleveland Browns- If Martin plays, you bench him. If Martin is inactive, you bench him. If Martin is the only running back on the Bucs, facing the Raiders with only five defenders, you bench him. Martin is so, so bad and now Tampa is talking up using Charles Sims quite a lot. Bobby Rainey is also going to see plenty of passing downs work and Martin injured his ankle last week. Not only shouldn’t he be started, but he needs to be dropped as well.
Julian Edelman vs Denver Broncos- Coming into the season, I was worried about Edelman’s regression with Rob Gronkowski back in the fold. And with Gronk getting to 100 percent over the last few weeks, Edelman has been targeted just 13 times over the last two games. Brandon LaFell has emerged as a trusted target for Tom Brady, as he is playing on 86 percent of the Patriots snaps this season, and actually led all wideouts in snaps last week against the Bears. And despite this game being a high-scoring one, Denver has been pretty tough against opposing receivers to this point, so I’d look elsewhere until he emerges in the target department again.
Marques Colston @ Carolina Panthers- Entering this season, Colston was averaging over eight targets per game for his career, but has seen that number drop to 6.4 this year. While the matchup is strong against a weak Carolina secondary, Colston doesn’t have a great track record away from home or outdoors, and obviously, neither does his quarterback. I think Brandin Cooks is the Saints receiver ti play here, not Colston.
Heath Miller vs Baltimore Ravens- Miller had a surprise 17-point outing last week, but I still wouldn’t trust him as a fantasy option. He had seven catches on Sunday, but during the three games prior to Sunday, he combined for just six receptions for 78 yards and no touchdowns. He won’t always be able to benefit from a 500-yard, six-touchdown performance from Big Ben, and Baltimore is tough against tight ends, surrendering just 5.39 points per game to the position thus far, good for the fourth-fewest in all of football.
Broncos defense @ New England Patriots- This is the second-straight week where I’d suggest benching the Broncos strong defensive unit. This game should be a shootout against Tom Brady and company, who have scored 158 points over their last four games, averaging nearly 40 points per game over their last four games. This offense is clicking and the Patriots are at home in a big game for them. Opposing defenses are averaging just 3.86 fantasy points per game against New England this year, so if you can, I’d look to stream.