Week 9 Recap: Millgraphapork

Oh, to be Tom Brady's hand...

A week full of awful games on paper turned into an intriguing set of contests. With only two true blowouts (the Patriots versus Steelers game was in doubt until the fourth quarter), there is a quite a bit of ground to cover. But sadly, there is a lot less silliness than usual. Hey, don’t blame me. Blame Greg Schiano.

Why him?

Why not?

Dolphins 22, Bengals 20

Andy Dalton pulled an Andy Dalton, looking bad in spots and just plain terrible in others. I think we all knew the truth was somewhere less than what he had been doing the last month. But it is also more than what he did Thursday. Dalton is still among the better QB2s, so don’t bail entirely based on one bad game.

Marvin Jones was a hot topic coming into this game, and while he did not score a touchdown a fourth straight game, he did see seven targets on a season high 50 snaps. (His previous high was 38 in Week 4.) He also had a 50-yard scoring play called back by penalty. With Andrew Hawkins back in the fold, it is tough to say exactly how this plays out, but there are worse bye-week fill-in options than Jones.

The Dolphins had a pretty uneventful game on offense. This was mostly due to repeatedly having a short field thanks to Dalton’s three interceptions. The one high point was the continued breakout of Lamar Miller. A personal favorite of mine, he has seemingly taken over the lead back role in Miami. Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics back up his success as he is ranked 12th in NEP/attempt among the 41 running backs with 50 or more carries. numberFire has him as the 21st-ranked running back for the rest of the season (ROS), a rank that rose some last week and should again after this performance.

Buy: Lamar Miller

Sell: The Bengals defense (in fantasy and real life). They have now lost three starters to season ending injuries in the last two games. Making up for the loss of Geno Atkins may prove to be too much.

Hold: Marvin Jones, Andy Dalton

Chiefs 23, Bills 13

Using ESPN’s standard scoring, the KC defense has scored 16 or more points in all but three games this season. But there is reason for concern, starting with their having gone from averaging five sacks a game in the first seven weeks to one total the last two. They have also allowed an increasing number of yards for four consecutive games (274, 294, 340, 470) despite facing a parade of offensively challenged opponents. By anybody’s measure, the Chiefs have squared off against the softest schedule in the NFL with matchups against Jacksonville, Philadelphia, the Giants, Tennessee, Oakland, Houston, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

If the KC D continues to regress, don’t be the one to hang on two weeks too long. In the interim, with a bye next week, and two matchups against the Broncos in the three following games, you need to look elsewhere. Arizona is the most obvious candidate for plug and play purposes.

Frustrating many a fantasy owner along the way, C.J. Spiller was nothing short of explosive on Sunday, racking up 155 total yards on only 14 touches. All is not well, though, as he left the game not once, but twice after re-injuring his obviously still hurt ankle (he did not return the second time). With a Week 12 bye looming, is it possible Buffalo sits him against the Steelers, giving their star two full weeks of rest? Sure. On the other hand, they haven’t seemed inclined to do so thus far, so I’d guess he plays. If he does, it is nearly impossible not to start him.

Buy: C.J. Spiller, I guess.

Sell: Any Chief not named Jamaal Charles. If it feels like I say this every week, it is because I do. Just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t worth repeating.

Hold: Fred Jackson. Even if Spiller is fully back, he still has value as the goal line and third down back in an offense that loves to run.

Cowboys 27, Vikings 23

Tony Romo showed again that his two week mini slump (Weeks 6-7) was nothing but that. The last two games he has totaled 543 yards and five touchdowns versus a single interception. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams with him, but this game did see the return of Jason Witten. I have spoken about him a number of times recently, saying in last week’s recap that his rebound was going to happen sooner rather than later. Witten’s metrics are strong and the offense is chugging along, so I expect more of the same for the stud tight end.

The quarterback on the other side of the ball, Christian Ponder, had a less even day. He looked good in spots and awful in others, doing nothing to dissuade Minnesota from seeing what it has in Josh Freeman.

In a continuation of a recent trend, Greg Jennings received nine targets. After averaging 5.75 for the first four games, he has been the recipient of around eight targets per game since. Un-ownable for the better part of a month, Jennings may be about to swing back around. You could do worse than stashing him on the end of your bench.

Buy: Jason Witten as a top-five tight end ROS.

Sell: Dallas’ coaching staff. This team continues to try and give away games (often succeeding) and now they give DeMarco Murray four carries against a defense allowing the second-most points to running backs? I don’t get it.

Hold: DeMarco Murray was a forgotten man in a game that saw Dallas throw an astounding 51 times versus only eight called runs. This is an aberration. The fully healthy Murray, who is enjoying a career best season in NEP/rush (he ranks fifth in the NFL) will be a high end RB2 going forward.

Bonus Hold: Terrance Williams is entrenched in this offense as a fantasy WR3.

Titans 28, Rams 21

Do I think it is a coincidence that Chris Johnson went off one game after I wrote about how awful he is? No, I do not. Am I bitter? Very much so.

If you want to know how I feel about Johnson’s prospects the rest of the year, read what I wrote a few weeks hence. Aside from this one game, I believe my words still hold true. That said, the schedule isn’t the most difficult and he will have plenty of opportunity, so whether I like it or not, Johnson is likely headed to a top-15 ranking based on attrition alone.

Buy: Zac Stacy as a very legit RB2. More dynamic than anybody thought, Stacy is the most important piece on this offense by a significant margin.

Sell: Any passing game option on either team not-named Kendall Wright.

Hold: Shonn Greene. I could see him having this exact same game three or four more times this year.

Jets 26, Saints 20

The Saints offense has this odd tradition of succeeding spectacularly in spite of itself. And now, for the second time in three weeks, their odd personnel usage has bitten them in the arse. Having only one option on offense is not generally a good recipe for long term success. Sure, Kenny Stills had a couple of nice games, but as I strongly advised last week, those numbers should not be chased. Darren Sproles, who left this game during the first drive with a concussion, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore have mostly been non-factors. Perhaps their most egregious error is the under use of Pierre Thomas, something I discussed in great detail a few weeks ago.

And, by the way, they deactivated the highly effective Khiry Robinson (.00 NEP/attempt) for the awful Mark Ingram (-.63 NEP/attempt).

My point?

That Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, and Pierre Thomas are the only three guys you can really count on in fantasy leagues. Sproles certainly has value, but will totally disappear more often than you’d like.

Boy, oh, boy did Chris Ivory look great. With two nice games in the last three, I (somehow) believe in the Jets coaching staff’s ability to recognize that Ivory is worth more than 6-10 touches per game. If that happens, he will touch on low-end RB2 value.

Buy: Chris Ivory against the Bills in Week 11 off the Jets’ bye.

Sell: Marques Colston and Kenny Stills

Hold: Out hope that the Saints realize how much talent they are wasting with Sproles and Thomas.

Redskins 30, Chargers 24

Keenan Allen is a great young talent. He is 10th in NEP/target among the 134 players who have had at least 25 passes thrown their way and has scored 16.7 or more fantasy points in three of the last four games. We see him as a top-20 wide receiver the rest of the season, a ranking I think may even be conservative.

numberFire is not at all conservative with their thoughts on Philip Rivers though. While I ran him down early this season, something I now regret, we see him as a top-six quarterback. His performance on Sunday did nothing to dissuade me from buying into that.

While we are talking about the Chargers, Danny Woodhead continues to be a PPR monster. Not unlike Rivers and Allen, his arrow continues to point up.

The news isn’t quite as good in Washington. Robert Griffin III has shown signs, but just isn’t back to his pre-ACL tear form. As he slowly topples down ROS ranks, you are correctly wondering if you should be looking elsewhere. The risk of him pulling a Tom Brady and exploding on your bench exists, but you shouldn’t be ashamed for looking in another direction until such a game occurs.

Buy: Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, and Danny Woodhead

Bonus Buy: Alfred Morris seems to be oft overlooked this season. That shouldn’t happen. Regardless of the freakish touchdown vulture show from Darrel Young on Sunday, Morris is a clear-cut top-10 running back with top-five upside.

Sell: RG3 as a plug-and-play QB1.

Hold: Jordan Reed. He is important enough to what Washington does that this five target game is likely his basement.

Panthers 34, Falcons 10

This game went more or less how we all expected, so I am going to get right to Buy/Sell/Hold. But before I do, I’d like to invent a new word that can be used to describe my production of bar graphs about bacon (it’s a hobby): Millgraphapork.

Buy: Tony Gonzalez as my personal hero. This guy is something else.

Sell: Steven Jackson. He is lumbering his way to mid-range RB3 status.

Bonus Sell: Panthers running backs. As predicted, the mess has arrived. Jonathan Stewart had 12 touches, DeAngelo Williams had 15, and Mike Tolbert turned nine into a touchdown and 37 yards.

Hold: Harry Douglas. He had only seven targets this week, but as long as Roddy White is out he is still at least a WR3.

Eagles 49, Raiders 20

Shame on you if you grew impatient with the Eagles and bailed on DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy. But shame on me for saying Nick Foles was done in Philly after his last, disastrous start. Of course, nobody saw this coming, but based on Michael Vick’s injury history and abject lack of better options, I should have known better. The bigger question is what we should expect from here? Well, not seven touchdowns per game, for starters. But also, not repeats of the Week 7, 11 of 29 for 80 yards stat line either. As I have become fond of saying, the truth is somewhere in the middle, with results likely to vary wildly depending on the matchup.

Week 10 should present a nice opportunity, as the Eagles will need to score to stay with Green Bay. And in Week 11 they face the Redskins, a defense that scares nobody. Foles should be a streaming option in both contests.

Buy: The Eagles offense.

Sell: Riley Cooper. I know he has been on fire the last month, but it is on very few targets and against an incredibly week lineup of opposition. Let somebody else burn a waiver spot.

Bonus Sell: Darren McFadden. The more I say it, the bigger my ego gets. He can’t stay on the field. Period.

Hold: Terrelle Pryor. He hurt his knee late, but early word is that he is fine. His bad passing day notwithstanding, the youngster ran for 94 yards. He is a streaming option that can pay big dividends.

Seahawks 27, Buccaneers 24

I don’t mind admitting when I am wrong, but I am not ready to bail on my take on Mike James. Last week, I said, “The offensive line has been putrid all season, ranking an embarrassing 28th in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus. They couldn’t create holes for Doug Martin, so why would you expect them to for Mike James?”

While it is possible the Bucs turned it around, I am going to need more than a one-game sample against a surprisingly struggling Seahawks run defense (this is the second consecutive week they have given up more than 200 yards on the ground). All that said, Tampa Bay faces Miami and Atlanta the next two weeks. Neither team strikes fear into the heart of opposing offenses, so James is a worthy flex play against both.

This was the second straight scare for Seattle. But with Atlanta and Minnesota the next two weeks leading into the bye, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Buy: See if somebody is panicky on Vincent Jackson and make an offer. Mike Glennon is showing he has chops and Jackson is still a target monster. This is a one game aberration based on the Seahawks’ porous run D.

Sell: Tim Wright doesn’t get enough targets to be reliable. He has scored two straight weeks but is nothing more than a middling TE2 who is as liable to post a two-point day as he is to score.

Hold: Mike James

Browns 24, Ravens 18

Last week I led the Browns recap by stating Jason Campbell is the greatest quarterback ever. I went on to talk about how big of a boon he is to the value of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. How does he reward me? By throwing to his dynamic pass catching duo 13 times for 10 receptions, 146 yards, and two touchdowns.

No, not the duo of Gordon and Cameron. I am talking about Greg Little and Davone Bess.

The Browns make me insane.

We now interrupt this recap for a breaking news report.

This will be funnier if you read it in a 1950s news guy voice.

We’ve just received word over the wire that Ray Rice of the Baltimore Football Ravens is no longer a top-20 running back. Sources close to the situation (and people everywhere with working eyeballs) are saying that he is an abomination, bringing a great, undeserved shame to his owners. More on this story as it develops.

Rice looks awful when you watch him. He is slow to the hole and in and out of cuts, and has almost no burst. He has to be much more injured than the Ravens are letting on. As if you needed more evidence, Rice ranks 39th in NEP/attempt among the 41 running backs with at least 50 carries.

Buy: Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. This has to be the low point of the season for both.

Sell: Ray Rice as a must start in 10 and 12 team leagues.

Hold: Torrey Smith has had three quiet games following a breakout first month. I still believe in him as a top-15 receiver ROS.

Patriots 55, Steelers 31

I personally bailed on Tom Brady three weeks ago, only getting up the courage to share it publically last week. And fancy that, he goes off for approximately 800 fantasy points. They have a bye in Week 10 and a tough game at Carolina Week 11, but after that it is smooth sailing. Would any of you bet against Brady as a top 6-8 quarterback for the rest of the year? I know I wouldn’t.

The Steelers are bad at football.

Buy: Stevan Ridley is still on fire, bringing his four game totals to 71 carries, 340 yards, 4.79 yards per carry, and six scores. He is a strong RB2.

Bonus Buy: Aaron Dobson has slowly played his way into value for New England. He is not yet startable, but should be owned in most 12-team leagues. The rookie could be a very nice late season surprise for playoff bound teams.

Sell: Kenbrell Thompkins is somehow still owned in 55.5 percent of ESPN leagues. A healthy scratch this week, his value is officially non-existent.

Hold: Le’Veon Bell came back nicely following a poor Week 8 performance by posting a 20-touch, 139-yard day.

Colts 27, Texans 24

Andrew Luck sure did his best Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde impersonation only a few short days after Halloween. For almost three full quarters he ignored wide open receivers, took sack after sack, and made inaccurate throws. But then with five seconds to go in the third, he threw the first of three touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton, bailing his team and his owners out. numberFire’s algorithm was very down on Luck to start the season but has come around in recent weeks, ranking him third at quarterback ROS. I am not quite so optimistic, but I see him in the group just under Cam Newton, with the likes of Philip Rivers and Matt Stafford.

What Case Keenum lacks in talent, he makes up for in moxie. The kid spent the first half showing what he can do, routinely beating single coverage for huge gains (albeit with the help of some fantastic catches from Andre Johnson). I don’t know that this game tells us a ton about Keenum’s NFL future, but it does let us know that Johnson will remain locked in as a WR1.

Buy: T.Y. Hilton as a guy who could win your team a title. He has been inconsistent all year, but now pressed into major duty following Reggie Wayne’s season-ending ACL tear, Hilton is poised to explode.

Sell: The Houston running game. Much less reliable than in seasons past, the injuries are mounting. Arian Foster left the game with a back issue after only a few snaps (this is on top of the hamstring that almost kept him out of the game in the first place) and Ben Tate looked very tentative at times (I would too if I had four broken ribs).

Hold: I am not going to hop back into the Trent Richardson discussion again. (If you want to know my thoughts, read the last game of the Week 7 Recap.) Suffice it to say, I am bullish on his talents, but much, much less so on how he is being used. I am hanging onto hope he has RB2 value this year, but as long as Richardson is seeing only eight carries against loaded fronts with an over matched offensive line, it may be a pipe dream.