What's interesting about fantasy football is that it pretty much boils down to a game of risk. Not Risk the board game, mind you - although we've been over that one before! - but risk in the same way a stock portfolio is about risk. It's not really about always picking home runs; it's about not picking the players who will kill your roster.
So with that in mind, here's a few land mines you'll need to avoid in Week 9, powered by the mathematical models that make us the most accurate projection engine in the business. Remember kids, if it ain't math, it's probably just some fat guy and his opinion.
It's safe to say that the Steelers are a mess. True, they've looked better in recent weeks than they did during the horrific RB reign of Isaac Redman, but they're still far, far away from the black-and-gold competence that we expect.
To make matters worse, heading into Foxborough historically has been a field trip of death for the Steelers. All of the back-breaking AFC Championship game losses at the hands of Tom Brady aside, Ben and company are looking at the #3 power-ranked defense according to our NEP metrics, with the added insult of having Aqib Talib back to put the clamps on Antonio Brown.
Bye weeks are decimating the depth amongst available QBs, so I can't in good conscience say that Ben isn't the best of your potential options; I can however say that if Jake Locker or Terrelle Pryor are of avail to you, start them and breathe easier.
Halfway through the season, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more of a fantasy David Koresh than C.J. Spiller. He's been a full-on grease fire on his owners. To paraphrase that noted NFL analyst Jonathan Franzen, Spiller makes the owners who drafted him achieve the most painful state of being: remembering the future they never had.
In his stead, Fred Jackson has done what he has always done: middle-of-the-road performance in both the run and pass games, putting up enough performances to make you think that he's underutilized while also gently teasing you with a complete utter lack of spectacularity. He's the football John Olerud.
And now he's going up against the Chiefs, they of the #1 power-ranked defense and perhaps a bit of fire after being marginally exposed in Week 8 by the plucky Browns. He's not a horrible start, but the matchup is horrible and Thad Lewis (or whoever is under center), well, he's Thad Lewis.
This goes for old man glass Steven Jackson as well, so let's the two of you say it with me: your team is unbelievably disappointing. Were you really almost NFC Champions last year? You fell off faster than Bubba Sparxxx's rap career.
And now to you specifically, Jackie. Your comparables are appalling: Brandon Bennett, Matt Yeager, Artose Pinner, and Aaron Stecker. Half of you reading this article aren't even sure I'm listing ex-NFL players, are you? You probably think I'm listing my old frat buddies from college. (In fact, one of them in the group is. You can't tell at all, can you?)
Going into Carolina, on grass, Thursday night against the #4 power-ranked defense? No.
The Saints as of late are like one of those teams at the Little League World Series from Idaho with one sick, 6'10" pituitary "Is he really 13?" kid. Other than Drew Brees, no one can be counted on to do anything. Even sure-fire bets like Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham have been outscored by the likes of Daniel Thomas and Scott Chandler. So what's an owner to do?
Walk away. Bag it. You can't trust Pierre Thomas to do the job with his limited workload, and certainly not on the road against a surprisingly stout Jets defense, last week aside.
For the above three, again, I recognize there isn't much by way of replacements available so if you have to roll with them, roll with them. Zac Stacy is an obvious play over all of them, as isGiovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, and Danny Woodhead.
Ol' Stevie makes our list for the second straight week. Hater in the house!
A lot of what I said above about Fred Jackson applies here. To make matters worse, Stevie's NEP places him outside of the top-40 WRs in the league at #45 - just not the kind of efficiency or consistency you want out of your WR1.
Robert Woods showed some promise as a WR2 option early in the season, but Johnson is clearly the top option in Buffalo and as such, the Chiefs will be clamped down on him, making both Woods and Chandler slightly more attractive options given their likely slot on your roster.
For WR help, stay away from flash-in-the-pans Kenny Stills and Marvin Jones, as neither have the snaps or the targets to sustain their performance. Instead, look for consistent performers like Kendall Wright and matchup plays like Marlon Brown, who will draw a lot of single-coverage with Joe Haden locking up Torrey Smith.
Mike Glennon. Away at Seattle. Next.
How We Did Last Week
Always Listen To Me
Ryan Tannehill, #18 QB
Willis McGahee, #36 RB
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, #38 RB
Mike James, #29 RB
Never Listen To Me Ever Again
Steve Johnson, #12 WR