Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 9
It's going to be a rough week for a lot of fantasy teams.
The Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers and Titans each have a bye. While no fantasy owner really cares about the Titans being off, the Falcons, Bears, Lions and Packers each hold three or four usable fake football pieces, making Week 9 a complete nightmare.
That means this column becomes even more important - you're using lower-tiered players, and those are the guys I try to focus on each and every week here. I'll dig even deeper - just for you - this week, and we'll all experience bye week hell together. Sound good? Then let's get at it.
Start Ryan Tannhill - Tannehill should be on most waiver wires, and his matchup doesn't look fantastic at first glance. But it's actually pretty good.
The Chargers rank 27th against the pass according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and have allowed 25.5 fantasy points to Derek Carr, 15.7 to Alex Smith and 23.4 to Peyton Manning over their last three games. This season, San Diego's given up four top-eight weekly performances to quarterbacks.
The main reason their fantasy points against isn't dreadful is because they faced the Bills (when EJ Manuel was a thing), Jaguars (Blake Bortles) and Jets (a combination of Michael Vick and Geno Smith).
Meanwhile, Tannehill's played well over the last four weeks, ranking 11th, 14th, 4th and 19th at the position. With the Chargers traveling east for a 1:00 PM game, Tanny makes a nice quarterback option.
Sit Michael Vick - Many of you are going to want to start Michael Vick because he runs the football. It's just a shame he can't throw it.
Among relevant passers this year, only Chad Henne has been worse than Vick on a per drop back basis, per NEP. Every time Michael Vick drops back to pass, he's lost 0.33 points for the Jets. Compare that to Peyton Manning, who adds 0.43 for the Broncos.
According to our adjusted (for strength of schedule) metrics, Kansas City has the fourth-best secondary in the NFL. On the road, there's really no reason to play Vick. Could he surprise? Of course. But I don't want to bank on a guy who's played like Chad Henne.
Start Carson Palmer - Palmer seems to make it into this column each week, mostly because he continues to be undervalued in fantasy football.
In four games started this year, Palmer's scored no fewer than 16 points and no more than 22 - he's been consistent. And consistently good.
Dallas ranks 10th in fantasy points against to the quarterback position, but our metrics see them as a middle-of-the-road secondary. Why? Because their only truly dominating performance against a better than average quarterback came in Week 6 versus Russell Wilson. Aside from that game, the Cowboys have allowed five different weekly top-14 quarterbacks, including last week's performance to third-stringer Colt McCoy.
Sit Tony Romo - On the opposite sideline to Palmer on Sunday will be Romo, who left for a good portion of Monday night's game with a back injury. The matchup against the 16th-ranked Cardinals' secondary isn't a bad one, but fantasy owners should be generally concerned about his health limiting his ability. If this was Peyton Manning, I'd roll him out - he's got a higher ceiling than anyone. But Romo's more of a floor quarterback in fantasy, never ranking better than seventh in a given week this year and typically falling in the QB2 range.
Start Mark Ingram - Ingram's now scored 19 PPR points in three of his four games this year, finding the end zone at least once in each of them. When he's been healthy, he's been awesome. In fact, Ingram now leads all NFL running backs in Rushing NEP.
Ingram will face the Panthers on Thursday night, a team that ranks 30th against the run both in fantasy points allowed and Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP. With Khiry Robinson not 100% and Pierre Thomas out, Ingram should have a great game.
Sit Darren McFadden - He hasn't been a stud, but McFadden's been very serviceable this season. DMC actually has double-digit PPR points every week since Week 2, getting 11 to 18 attempts per contest. It's not pretty, but it's something.
But against Seattle - the third-best rush defense in football - in Seattle? I'll pass. His double-digit streak may come to an end.
Start Shane Vereen - Some games are Shane Vereen games, while others aren't. This week should be a Shane Vereen game.
After his big outing against the Jets, I went in detail on why particular matchups seem to favor Vereen's output. Vereen owners want close games, and they want contests where it's easier to throw on the defense than run on it.
That's what the Patriots will get this week against Denver.
If you're in a PPR league, Vereen's a really strong start. Even in standard ones, I'm expecting him to outplay the other Patriot backs.
Sit Frank Gore - Gore has a total of 58 rushing yards over his last two contests, and has really only taken advantage of poor rush defenses in fantasy football this year. The 49ers face the Rams this weekend, who rank 11th against the run according to our metrics, and are a team that Gore saw 16 carries for 38 yards against just a few weeks ago. He hasn't been very reliable this year, and this unreliability could continue in Week 9.
Start Bobby Rainey - Martin was in a walking boot and didn't practice yesterday, so it sounds like he may not go this weekend. Rookie Charles Sims is back from injury and is a nice longer-term add in fantasy football, but this week I like Rainey. Would you trust a first-year back coming off an injury who's never played an NFL snap?
If Rainey does indeed see the bulk of Tampa Bay's carries, he should be a solid start. Cleveland ranks as the 20th-best rush defense according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, and have surrendered five top-15 PPR running back performances this season. Rainey's an asset through the air, too - in his two games with 10 or more attempts, he also has 11 targets and 10 receptions.
Even if Davis plays, Randle should be a good play. Since Week 1, Randle's averaged 9.2 targets per game, and he's top 10 in the NFL in red zone targets. He's scored double-digit PPR points in all but two games this year, and with Victor Cruz out, that should continue.
The biggest reason he hasn't jumped to being a locked-in weekly starter is because he hasn't converted his red zone looks into touchdowns, scoring just twice this year. Expect a little progress there, perhaps as soon as Week 9.
Sit Eric Decker - As I mentioned earlier, the Jets' quarterback isn't very good at throwing the ball. His top receiver is Eric Decker.
The Chiefs, as noted, have the fourth-best pass defense according to our metrics. That's translated to the number of fantasy points they've surrendered to wide receivers, ranking eighth. In fact, they've yet to allow multiple touchdowns to team wide receivers in a single game this season.
That's not good news for Decker, who hasn't exactly been a fantasy asset because of his yardage totals - he needs to score. He has just one game where he's ranked better than 24th at the wide receiver position this year, despite seeing 10 or more targets in three of his last four games. Sure, he's been hurt at times this season, but the situation in New York isn't a good one right now. I'd look elsewhere.
Start Anquan Boldin - The last time the 49ers played the Rams, Boldin made this column. Boldin then went out and caught 7 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, the best game of his season.
The goal there isn't to pat myself on the back, but to show that Boldin against the Rams equals fantasy football gold. In his two games last season against them, Boldin caught 14 passes for 188 yards and a score. And I already told you his stat line from this year.
The St. Louis secondary ranks 29th according to our metrics, so the matchup is juicy regardless of how well Boldin's performed against them. But really, logic says that he's a good play in Week 9.
The one thing going for Robinson is volume. He's seen at least six targets in every game since the end of Week 1, averaging 8.57 per game during this time. And he's found the end zone in his last two games as well.
But the Bengals secondary is good. Really good. They rank number one in the league against the pass according to NEP, and have allowed just four double-digit PPR performances to the wide receiver position.
Robinson has a lot of underrated value moving forward, but perhaps not this week.
Start Martavis Bryant - Bryant now has three touchdowns in two career NFL games, and there's reason to believe he can find the end zone again in Week 9. Jimmy Smith will be out for the Ravens, meaning Dominique Franks could end up covering the group of Steeler number-two receivers. Franks wasn't even on an NFL team until October 7th. Expect the Steelers to pick on him.
Start Jason Witten - Witten may be the most boring tight end to own in fantasy football and, to be honest, he shouldn't be owned in the high number of leagues that he is. But Week 9 is a beautiful matchup, as Arizona ranks 25th against tight ends this season in fantasy points allowed. In five of seven games this year, tight ends have caught seven or more passes against the Cardinals. And throughout 2014, Arizona's already allowed four top-10 tight end PPR performances. Witten's a solid play, especially if he continues to find the end zone.
Sit Heath Miller - Miller's caught 34 balls this year, but half of them have come in two contests - he's mostly been a boom or bust play. Those games were against Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, teams that rank 29th and 27th against fantasy football tight ends, respectively. This week, Heath gets a Ravens team that's allowed just one tight end touchdown this year, ranking third in fantasy points allowed to the position. Only one tight end has scored 10 or more PPR fantasy points on them, and I don't expect Miller to do the same.
Start Clay Harbor - His name sounds like a vacation destination (I've probably made that awful joke on here before), but Harbor actually makes for a good deep play this week. He's seeing volume - enough of it - compiling four targets per game since he became relevant in Week 4. And three of his five games since then has resulted in at least 9.4 PPR fantasy points.
The great thing about Harbor this week is his matchup. Cincinnati continues to be generous against tight ends, and every team who even remotely uses one in their offense has thrown the ball their way seven or eight times against the Bengals. Don't be surprised if Harbor surprises this week and finishes at a top-12 tight end.
Start the Cleveland Browns - The Browns defense isn't great, ranking 22nd per NEP, but the Buccaneers offense is even worse, ranking 31st. Cleveland's at home, which is always a plus for defensive streaming, and the Buccaneers have already allowed defenses to rank sixth, first and third against them this season. The Browns have a high floor, too, as no defense has ranked lower than 18th against the Bucs in a single week - roughly three or four fantasy points.
Sit the Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys are now down linebacker Justin Durant, and have seen their Adjusted Defensive NEP rank drop four spots over the last two weeks (against Eli Manning and Colt McCoy). The Cardinals, despite their quarterback carousel, haven't given opposing defenses a good matchup this year - the highest a team defense ranked against them in fantasy football is 15th, which came in Week 1.
Other Defenses to Start: Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals
Other Defenses to Sit: New England Patriots, Denver Broncos