Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 9
Week 8 wasn't the strongest in this column's history. We, unfortunately, didn't hit on any of our predictions, but we were close on a couple -- there's hope yet.
Le'Veon Bell was far from the overall RB1 in Week 8 as the New York Jets completely came apart -- he finished with just five fantasy points. The Los Angeles Chargers did not bench Melvin Gordon, and instead gave him the majority of the running back opportunities despite Austin Ekeler's stellar performances in 2019. The Carolina Panthers played one of the worst games we've seen all year against the San Francisco 49ers. Each of those predictions was pretty far off the mark.
On the brighter side, D.K. Metcalf very nearly popped off against the Atlanta Falcons -- he scored 2 touchdowns and could have had a third, but he finished with just 13 receiving yards on a day where Russell Wilson barely had to pass. And lastly, LeSean McCoy was on his way to a solid fantasy finish, but he was effectively benched after a costly fumble in the third quarter -- he had been dominating the workload before then and if he had scored the touchdown Damien Williams later punched in, he would have finished as quite close to an RB1.
We can't hit every week, but we can definitely try. We have a fresh set of predictions for the upcoming week of NFL action, and I have a good feeling about these ones. Here are 5 Bold Predictions for Week 9.
Lamar Jackson will Play David to the Pats' Goliath -- Kind Of
I'm not expecting the Baltimore Ravens to beat the New England Patriots and their impenetrable defense. The Ravens are currently 3.5-point underdogs at home and the Pats are fresh off of yet another crushing victory -- this time against a Cleveland Browns team that beat the Ravens earlier this year.
But what I am predicting is that Lamar Jackson will buck the trend of the Pats' defense completely ruining opposing quarterbacks in fantasy football. Baker Mayfield scored 12.56 fantasy points against the Pats last weekend as the QB23, which was the most fantasy points a quarterback has scored against the Pats all year. The Buffalo Bills quarterbacks would have combined for about 16 fantasy points, but Josh Allen exited the game with a head injury. Outside of them, just about no one has found any success against one of the best defenses we've seen in some time.
However, Allen tapped into something that will help Jackson achieve what others have not been able to this year -- he managed to find some success rushing the ball. He took 5 carries for 26 yards and punched in the first touchdown the Patriots defense had allowed all year. Allen didn't scramble or rush frequently in that game -- and was eventually knocked out by a hit he took on a scramble -- but he did find success when he did.
Lamar Jackson has been playing out of his mind in 2019. It's the closest thing we've seen to vintage Michael Vick and he's well on his way to breaking quarterback rushing records. His near-unparalleled rushing ability at the quarterback position aligns perfectly with one of the few chinks we've seen in the Patriots' defense. His legs have helped propel Jackson to a top-notch fantasy season. He's scored at least 21 fantasy points in all but one game this season, and he's done it both on the ground and as a passer. He'll leverage his unique skill set to become the first quarterback to finish with over 18 fantasy points against the Patriots defense in 2019.
Baker Mayfield will Finish as a QB1
I really didn't think this would ever be a bold prediction heading into the 2019 season, and I'm not happy that it is. I warned that Mayfield would have a tough time living up to his high draft capital in the offseason, but I wasn't expecting this. But here we are -- Baker Mayfield has been a pretty massive disappointment this season. Chase Daniel (13.82) has averaged more fantasy points per game than Mayfield (12.99).
Mayfield has had just one good game for fantasy so far this season, which came against the Seattle Seahawks back in Week 6. He's had fewer than 17 fantasy points in every other week, and even finished with a flat 0 fantasy points against the 49ers.
There are a litany of things that have gone wrong for Mayfield and for the Cleveland Browns, but I think both will bounce back in Week 9 against a Denver Broncos team that's just about thrown in the towel on 2019. They have played stout defense against quarterbacks, allowing the third-fewest points at the position so far, and even putting up impressive quarterback pressure rates and hurries despite a very slow start to the season. But it's also fair to say that they haven't faced many daunting passing attacks -- outside of a half of Patrick Mahomes, they've faced Aaron Rodgers, who didn't have to do much against them, and gave up 303 passing yards to Gardner Minshew.
Chris Harris is once again playing out of his mind, but this could be the first game all year that the Broncos face a healthy offense with more than one dominant receiver -- the Browns feature Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, not to mention that 2018-favorite Rashard Higgins has finally returned from the knee injury he suffered in Week 1. Mayfield may be under pressure in this one, but he should be able to find at least one open receiver when he drops back to pass. He'll bounce back this week and finish as a top 10 quarterback.
The Jags will Best the Texans
Minshew-mania is going to bring the heat against the Houston Texans this week in what should be a fiercely contested divisional matchup. The Texans are currently 1.5-point favorites on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but there's no way they're escaping Week 9 with a win.
For starters, the Jags' defense has finally been coming on over the past few weeks. They completely decimated the Jets last week, trounced the Cincinnati Bengals, and only allowed 13 points to the New Orleans Saints. Rookie pass rusher Josh Allen has been with quarterback hits in each game this season save one, and with five sacks over the team's last four games. They have the sixth-best quarterback pressure rate in the league through eight weeks, and should have no problem getting behind the sieve-like Texans offensive line -- not to mention how Deshaun Watson's playstyle leaves him more susceptible to taking sacks. And while they will miss Jalen Ramsey, they still have functional players in the secondary like A.J. Bouye.
Meanwhile, the Texans defense has been completely annihilated by injuries -- this past week J.J. Watt suffered a torn pectoral muscle that will end his season, and the team is missing at least four defensive backs. They were already struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks with Watt -- they have the fifth-lowest pressure rate in the league -- and after trading Jadeveon Clowney just before the season, it's hard to imagine they'll suddenly turn things around.
The one-eyed bandit is inarguably a better quarterback than Minshew, but will have a tough time overcoming the Jags with all of the injuries his team is battling through. The Texans are not coming out of Jacksonville with a win in Week 9.
Robby Anderson will be a WR1
Things have gone about as poorly as possible for the Jets in 2019. Sam Darnold was clearly under the weather in Week 1, and then proceeded to miss the next several weeks with mono. In that time, the Jets fielded one of the worst offenses we've ever seen. The Miami Dolphins are actively trying to lose, and yet the Jets have still managed to post the worst offense in the league by just about every available metric. Things were looking up for the team when they bested the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago, but since then Darnold has thrown seven interceptions and committed two fumbles.
However, this week the Jets get to play the tanking Dolphins. This matchup should be so easy even the Jets couldn't mess it up. The Dolphins just sent elite cover cornerback Xavien Howard to the injured reserve -- arguably for trying too hard to win after besting JuJu Smith-Schuster and intercepting a Mason Rudolph pass on Monday Night Football -- leaving their defense even more vulnerable than it previously was.
That queues things up perfectly for Robby Anderson, who hasn't quite hit the ceiling he demonstrated in previous seasons in fantasy football. Outside of that game against Dallas, Anderson has had just one game with double-digit fantasy points and no touchdowns. The deep threat still has an impressive average depth of target of 13.6 and a top-notch 38% share of his team's air yards, but those deep targets can be hard to come by when the quarterback is under frequent and immediate pressure. Darnold should have plenty of time to set up Anderson for big gains against a Dolphins front generating pressure on just 18.1% of quarterback drop backs, and Anderson should have no problem conquering a secondary that was giving up 10 air yards per pass attempt. Robby Anderson will finish as a top 12 wide receiver in Week 9.
It's Derrick Henry's Time to Shine
Remember that Thursday Night Football game last year when Derrick Henry went absolutely berserk? In what was supposed to be a typical, boring Thursday night game against two not-really-competitive teams, Henry balled out for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns. From that point on, the Tennessee Titans shifted to a more run-focused approach to close out the season, centered around Henry.
I'm not calling for that kind of performance from Henry again -- that was a once in a lifetime kind of game -- but I do think Henry is going to put up monster numbers this week against the Panthers. He's been seeing strong volume all season, with at least 16 touches in every game and 20 or more touches in half of his games. Extrapolated to a full season, he's on his way to over 1,400 yards from scrimmage, and he still hasn't had that classic Henry -- you know, the kind where he puts up a ridiculous number of rushing yards that heavily inflates his end-of-year numbers. For the first time in his career, Henry has been pretty consistent.
However, he has the potential to have one of those signature games this week. The Panthers have given up the fifth-most points to opposing fantasy backs in 2019, allowing huge games to just about every decent back they've faced so far. Only the Bengals have allowed a higher yards per carry to opposing backs, and we all know about the Bengals. And numberFire's schedule-adjusted Power Rankings have the Panthers as the second-worst run defense in the league behind the Dolphins. So, yikes.
The Titans are in a position to step out to a big lead over the Panthers in this one, especially if Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen is still seeing ghosts from last week's demoralizing 13-51 loss to the 49ers. There's a solid chance Henry helps establish that lead, and we've seen how the Titans play when they have a lead -- that's when Henry starts to get dangerous. Don't be surprised when Henry finishes Week 9 as a top-five running back in fantasy football.