Start or Sit: Week 9

Chris Johnson, despite people thinking he has a great upcoming schedule, is still bench-worthy.

Heinz Ketchup, to us Yinzers, is a condiment made in heaven.

[Actually, though the company is headquartered in the Steel City, a good portion of Heinz Ketchup is produced in Fremont, Ohio. Therefore, I’ve just referred to Fremont, Ohio as “heaven”.]

To a Pittsburgher, nothing tastes better with fries or a burger than a healthy pour of the red sauce. You’re raised eating it, and any place outside of the city that uses Hunt’s is automatically a place no lover of Pittsburgh should dine.

You can tell I’m from Pittsburgh, can’t you?

Ketchup – Heinz Ketchup – is the mother of all condiments. But there’s one topping that comes close, and it’s been very much in the news recently: Sriracha.

Bubba Gump to shrimp is like any average American to Sriracha. The tasty hot sauce goes on almost anything imaginable, making each bite savory and you ready to take on the world. Yes, it has that much of an impact on your being. If you’re not putting Sriracha on your food, you’re missing out on a fantastic eating experience.

Yesterday, it was announced that Irwindale, California residents were suing Huy Fong Foods, makers of the paste, seeking to shut down production at the nearby plant. Neighborhood inhabitants were getting headaches from the smell of the factory, saying that it felt like you were getting a “plate of chili peppers shoved into your face.”

That’s not very pleasant.

As a result, if the plant is indeed shut down, the company will be forced to raise prices on the sauce. Sriracha fans are now treating the situation like they did Andre Brown earlier in the season. They’re stashing the product.

Andre Brown, Shane Vereen, Percy Harvin – they’ll eventually get their names on this start/sit list. And when they do, you’ll feel like one of the Sriracha hoarders. You’ll feel like a genius.

Start 'Em

Sriracha on Vietnamese Pho: Perfect (Solid Starts)

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

There it is! Romo owners finally got a solid fantasy performance out of him after two disappointing ones, as he threw three touchdowns in the dramatic loss to the Lions in Week 8.

This week, Tony and his “diva” receiver (this Dez stuff needs to stop, by the way) host the Minnesota Vikings, a team with the third-worst adjusted pass defense in the NFL. So far this season, the Vikings have allowed over 62 points through the air compared to what another team would in a similar situation. In other words, they’re bad.

You’re almost definitely playing Romo if you have him, unless you’re in one of those six-team leagues – he’s our seventh-ranked quarterback this week.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

Trust me, RGIII owners, I felt your pain last week. I rode him in a handful of daily leagues, thinking he’d reach at least the 18 fantasy points that all non-Chad Henne quarterbacks posted on the Broncos so far this season. Nope. Not even close.

Have some faith though, as Bobby will be back at home this week against a Chargers secondary that’s given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. That’s translated to our advanced metrics, too, as they rank as the sixth-to-worst pass defense when adjusted for strength of schedule.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

RGIII’s signal-calling opponent this week, Philip Rivers, should continue his streak of fantasy goodness against Washington’s secondary. Though the defense actually ranks better against the pass in our defensive metrics than in fantasy points allowed (10th versus 25th), Rivers is fresh off the bye and hasn’t scored single-digit points all season long. He should still finish as a QB1 this week.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

If Eddie Lacy isn’t in your starting lineup, then I’d like to see who your starting running backs are, and I’d also like for you to stop playing in leagues by yourself.

Lacy’s been possessed over the last four weeks, carrying the ball 97 times and catching 11 more out of the backfield.

Lacy’s becoming matchup proof, but when he has a good one like he does against a depleted Bears front seven, you have to start him. Everywhere. As much as you can.

Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers

Uh oh, boys and girls. Look who’s fantasy relevant again!

Ryan Mathews has two straight 100-yard games, and 43 carries during these contests. This is why I said not to give up on him in the preseason. Because he’s good? No, not necessarily. But if he’s healthy, he’ll get opportunity.

And that’s what he has this week against Washington. Remember how the Redskins strength of schedule forced them to be a little better against the pass than we thought? Well, against the run, Washington ranks in the bottom six. And they also have given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs. Boom.

Mathews is a solid play, and so is his little teammate, Danny Woodhead. The ex-Patriot is having a very solid season, ranking 13th in half-point PPR leagues at running back. Since Week 1, Woodhead hasn’t scored fewer than 10.1 half-point PPR points, too. Consider him a safe play this week.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell saved his fantasy day with a late touchdown against the Raiders last week, ending the game with just 24 yards on the ground on 13 carries. He hasn’t been spectacular from a yardage standpoint due to his offensive line play, but the Patriots depleted D could help him find holes this weekend. Putting him on this list is more to tell you that the Patriots can be beat on the ground, just not through the air.

Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers

Thanks to Carson Palmer, the Falcons streak of giving up at least two passing touchdowns in every game this season is still alive. This week, the team will face the up-and-coming Panthers, where Superman Cam and Steve Smith will look to hook up a couple of times in the red zone. Don’t bench 89 against the absolute worst secondary in the entire NFL.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins

In half-point PPR leagues, Garcon hasn’t ruined any of your fantasy weeks. He’s yet to score fewer than the 8.1 points he accumulated last week, and has tallied three (five if you count his two 9.9 performances) double-digit games. The problem? Touchdowns.

Washington’s top wideout hasn’t found the end zone since Week 4, but has a good opportunity (remember what I said about RGIII and the Chargers?) against San Diego this week. It could be a high-scoring affair, and Garcon would benefit tremendously from that.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

I’ve been a big Keenan Allen guy this year, and his production almost has to continue against the Redskins this week. Like I mentioned with Rivers, the Washington defense has ranked better against the pass in real football than fantasy, but they’ve allowed a wide receiver touchdown in all but one game, and two or more in two of them.

They’ve played against some tough quarterbacks, which is why their adjusted rank is so much stronger, but the last time I checked, Philip Rivers was playing almost as good as anyone else in the league, no? Start Allen with confidence this week.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears

The Black Unicorn entered the bye with his worst week of the season receiving-wise, but still was able to score on his only reception. This week he’ll face a Packers defense that’s allowed the second-most points to tight ends this year, including at least five tight end receptions to opposing teams in every game. Garbage time potential helps Bennett’s value too.

Sriracha on Pizza: Underrated (Sneaky Starts)

Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans

I feel like a broken record with all my Jake Locker promoting over the last two weeks on this site, but the reasons are true. In games played since his Week 1 game against the Steelers, Locker’s lowest total (four games) has been 14.8 fantasy points. He’s scored 28.6, 19.5 and 23.9 points otherwise. Against St. Louis, the fourth-worst pass defense when altered for opponent strength, Locker is a fantastic option.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Is there a less fun option at quarterback to play in fantasy football? Alex Smith isn’t a sexy play, and he never will be, but he can produce in favorable matchups. The Bills have surrendered 11 touchdown passes over the last three weeks, paving a path for at least a high floor game for Smith.

Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears

The McCown pick here is for deeper leagues, but there’s some allure with this matchup. The Packers, despite playing better defensively of late, still just rank 25th against the pass according to our metrics. They may have only allowed a single touchdown pass over their last two contests without a single 150-yard performance, but they’ve faced the Brandon Weeden and Christian Ponder train wrecks. I could field a team of 11 and stop those guys.

McCown not only is an underrated passer, but has the weapons around him to produce in fantasy. We like him as a QB2 this week, but in deeper leagues, he’s a decent fill-in given all the bye weeks.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Bernard’s had a disappointing last couple of weeks in fantasy, carrying the ball just 12 times against the Lions and Jets. The Dolphins rush defense ranks 29th in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs though, and rank fifth-to-last within our advanced analytics.

Not only that, but Gio’s receiving numbers could look nice this week too, as the Dolphins have given up the third-most receiving yards (373) to running backs this season. He should be a fine flex play with high-end RB2 upside.

Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans

As I mentioned in my 15 Transactions article earlier this week, Kendall Wright has averaged over six receptions per game since Week 1, something Nate Washington – who is somehow owned more than Wright in fantasy leagues – has accomplished just once this season.

Against the Rams corners, Wright should have a field day. St. Louis, as noted with Locker, ranks towards the bottom in pass defense, and has allowed at least one wide receiver touchdown every week outside of Week 6 versus Houston. Wright’s a sneaky play given his apparent perception, but he should be valuable this week and beyond.

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

This isn’t really a difficult call to make, considering Williams has scored a touchdown in four straight games, en route to a half-point PPR 17.25 average over this time span. For some perspective, that’s just 0.5 points higher than stud teammate Dez Bryant.

Williams is, for whatever reason, available in a quarter of leagues. He should be started this week in almost any of them.

Brandon LaFell, WR, Carolina Panthers

LaFell is a home-run wideout, capable of posting a big day like he did against Minnesota a few weeks ago. He’s actually had at least three receptions in every game outside of Week 1 this year, so if you end up playing him in a PPR league, at least there’s some floor.

But like Smith, we have to recognize the nice matchup that’s being presented. If Atlanta continues to allow passing touchdowns – which they should – LaFell could be one to benefit this week from it.

Defense to Start: New Orleans Saints (vs. New York Jets)

Sit 'Em

Tabasco over Sriracha: A Mistake (Risky Starts)

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

You may die a little on the inside here if you’re a Brady owner, but here’s a fun fact for you: Christian Ponder’s Week 8 performance in fantasy yielded more points than Tom Brady’s last two weeks combined. Combined!

Brady’s been awful in fantasy. And as much as this has to do with his weapons, that doesn’t really matter – that’s what he’s dealing with.

Although the Steelers have given up the fourth-fewest points to opposing signal-callers, they still are listed as an average pass defense – the 15th-ranked one when adjusted for strength of schedule. However, Brady needs to ride your bench until he can prove he’s worthy of a start.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan’s been very underrated this season given all the changes he’s gone through offensively, posting the sixth-best passing net expected points total in the NFL (click here to learn about net expected points). But he struggled a bit against Arizona last week (four picks), and is going up against a Carolina defense that ranks sixth against the pass, fifth overall. There could be better options for you in Week 9.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben, on the road, against the Patriots? Yikes. The Steelers are turning things around a bit offensively, but you don’t beat the Patriots by attacking Aqib Talib and company. You beat them on the ground. Sorry, Roethlisberger hopefuls.

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

”But Chris Johnson’s schedule is getting easy!” No, not anymore it’s not. A lot of the teams we thought were going to be cake walks have ended up proving their worth against running backs, and one of those teams is his opponent this weekend, the Rams.

When fixed for strength of opponent, the Rams rank seventh against the run. Over the last two weeks, they’ve allowed just over 100 yards on 40 running back carries. Shonn Greene is getting healthy, and Chris Johnson still isn’t giving you consistent running production. If you have a better option, bench CJAnythingBut2K.

Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Hopefully the bye week helped T-Rich, but chances are, we’re going to see more or less the same. There are some players where matchups still don’t matter as long as they’re playing poorly, and Richardson is one of them. If he performs well, then great – you’ve got him for next week. I wouldn’t risk it at this point though.

Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots

Like Richardson, you just can’t trust Amendola right now. You can’t. The Steelers aren’t fantastic at stopping the pass, but Amendola hasn’t been fantastic at being a receiver this year. His reception net expected points per target total isn’t even much better than it was when he was in St. Louis, showing Tom Brady hasn’t made any bigger impact on Amendola’s game – yet – than Sam Bradford and company did.

He’s been limited by injury all season long, and isn’t one to slot in your lineup this week.

Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Douglas has been a target machine, seeing a league-high 18 last week and seven the week before that. But like his quarterback, Douglas will go up against a Carolina defense that’s been strong – very strong – of late. How strong? Well, they haven’t given up a wide receiver touchdown since Week 2. That strong.

Sriracha Not on Vietnamese Pho: What Are You Thinking? (Bad Starts)

Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s give it up for Glennon. Over the last three weeks, he’s been fantasy footballs seventh-highest scoring quarterback, behind only the stud names (and Andy Dalton). But against Seattle, I’m having a hard time finding a reason to start the guy outside of deep or two-quarterback leagues. Garbage time? Maybe, but let’s not bank on that.

Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

I’d probably prefer Powell over Ivory this week given the Jets may fall behind a potent Saints offense, but having faith in either of them is incredibly risky. Ivory could be a workhorse if the Jets could keep a lead, but that shouldn’t happen this week against the Saints. Verdict: The carries will be split and unpredictable.

Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns

He shouldn’t be rostered anymore in most league formats. Really, that’s what it’s come to. Though McGahee has averaged 10 carries per game over the last three weeks, he’s yet to accumulate 40 rushing yards in a single game. The matchups, outside of last week against the Chiefs, weren’t all that brutal, either. If there’s one “lead back” that you can forget about, it’s him.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints

I could probably replace Moore with “any Saints receiver”, because this year they’re just like a box of chocolates. Do I need to finish that phrase?

Moore came back last week after an injury that kept him out of three games, and scored a touchdown on three catches. Hooray, Lance! Too bad you had four catches combined in your other three contests played this year.

Your guess is as good as mine regarding this receiving game. It’s amazing how good Drew Brees can be in fantasy with such a carousel at wide receiver. I guess that speaks to Jimmy Graham’s value.

Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills

I was more than pleased with Chandler’s performance last week, especially after calling him out in my Week 8 storylines article. Chandler’s having a very underrated season in the Bills offense, and is on pace to break his personal records in all receiving statistics. But I’m not really feeling him against Kansas City, who have stuffed any average tight end that they’ve faced this season.

Defense to Sit: Chicago Bears (vs. Green Bay Packers)

For any other start or sit questions, visit numberFire’s Questions section and take a look at our weekly rankings.