Start 'Em Sit 'Em Week 9
by Joel Dehls
Week 9 Starts/Sleepers/Busts
Week 8 was wild and I’m not just saying that because I missed on a couple of my picks. Between the wild weather in multiple games, the Giants competing with the Bucs, and Jonathan Taylor causing me to tilt like never before, I didn't feel great on Tuesday morning. With that being said, I’m sticking to my process with my starts, sleepers and busts this week. I like the matchups this week way more than last week. Lets get after it!
Start - Josh Allen vs. Seattle Seahawks
If you owned Josh Allen the first month of the season, you probably thought you had the 2019 version of Lamar Jackson. From weeks 1-4, he was QB3 in points per game on the season, with only Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott ahead of him. Since then, he is QB20 in points per game. While he did have a couple tough matchups against the Chiefs and Patriots, he struggled in plus matchups against the Jets and Titans, which left managers frustrated and confused. In the last 2 weeks, he only has 1 total touchdown. Although he has averaged nearly 10 rushes/game in the previous 3 weeks, it has not been enough to overcome his passing deficiency, as he has passed for less than 160 yards in 2 out of his 3 previous games and hasn't thrown a touchdown since week 6.
Thankfully, if you own Josh Allen, you get the luxury to see him light up the Seattle Seahawks this week. The Seahawks have been historically bad on defense this season as they give up, on average, 359 passing yards per game, by far the worst in the NFL. They also allow 28.4 points/game, which is bottom 10 in the league. Outside of the 49ers quarterbacks, Seattle is consistently giving up QB1 numbers to their opponents. Fantasy QB’s are averaging 26.7 points against Seattle’s defense this year, that includes quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Cam Newton. If Allen wants to turn his season around, it starts this week. I expect Allen to get back on track with a top 10 finish.
Sleeper - Derek Carr @ LA Chargers
Derek Carr is the quarterback that always seems to be a player that neither fantasy managers or the Raiders want leading their team. Carr has been impressive this year, he is 4th in completion percentage, 4th in QBR, and has only thrown 2 interceptions. This isn't a Drew Brees stateline either, Carr actually throws the ball down the field. Carr is in the top half of the league in yards/attempt and has the 3rd highest passer rating of throws 20+ yards. With Henry Ruggs and Nelson Agholor (who would've thought he would be relevant!) being two great deep threats for Carr, he has a great chance to have a blowup game against a beatable Chargers defense.
The Chargers defense has been decimated by injury, causing them to have a disappointing 2020 campaign. They give up an average of 253 passing yards/game and 2 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks, which is an average of 23.7 fantasy points/game, 4 points more than the league average. Last week, against a below average Broncos offense, Drew Lock torched them in the 2nd half. Racking up nearly 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, as they came back from a 24-3 deficit. With a high over/under of 52.5 points, the 4th highest total of the week, Vegas expects both teams to be able to score. Battling against the possible ROTY, I expect Carr to put up a top 15 week.
Bust - Teddy Bridgewater @ Kansas City Chiefs
Teddy Bridewater has been a streamable candidate multiple times this season. He had great weeks against Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Arizona earlier in the year, but when he plays top tier defenses, it's a different story. Against the Bucs in week 2 and the Bears in week 6, he failed to put up more than 10 fantasy points. Bridgewater is nothing more than a streamer and this week against a tough Kansas City defense, I would be hesitant to start him.
The Chiefs defense has been stout against opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Since week 3, they have only let up 1 game of 20+ fantasy points to the quarterback position. In the last three weeks they have let up 2 passing touchdowns and an average of less than 200 passing yards per game. Overall, they are the 6th toughest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks, giving up an average of 15.2 points/game to the position. I would much rather start someone like Derek Carr or Drew Lock this week.
Start - James Conner @ Dallas Cowboys
Going into the 2020 season, I wasn't the biggest fan of James Conner. I thought between injury and overall lack of productivity would cause him to be a bust compared to his ADP. He has proven me wrong as he has been relatively healthy and productive. He is currently RB12 and has hit double digit PPR fantasy points in every game except week 1. He has been without a doubt the workhorse, racking up 15 or more carries in every game since week 2. He has also been consistently getting touchdowns, as he has 1 in 5 out of the last 6 games. Overall, Connor is a borderline RB1 and this week against the Cowboys, he could end the week as THE RB1.
Obviously, you start James Connor every week, but this matchup against the Cowboys should have you thrilled as a Conner owner. The Cowboys are bad at every level of the defense, but especially against the run. While the Eagles struggled without Miles Sanders, Antonio Gibson had a career day in week 7 and Kenyan Drake went for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in week 6. In a game where the Steelers should dominate in all aspects, look for Connor to see 20+ touches in a blowout win.
Sleeper - Damien Harris @ New York Jets
After getting selected in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft, many people believed Damien Harris would have an immediate impact on the Patriots running back committee. Due to multiple injuries and being buried on the depth chart, Harris only played in 2 games where he rushed for 12 yards on 4 attempts. Going into 2020 was a different story, as he was expected to compete with Sony Michel before landing on IR before the season started. His first game back in week 4, he rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries against an average Chiefs run defense. In that same time span, he has led the Patriots in rushing attempts in each week, mostly competing with Rex Burkhead while James White sees more of his work in the passing game. The Patriots are 2nd in the NFL in rushing percentage and in a plus matchup where they should be winning, I expect Damien Harris to have success.
While the New York Jets are terrible at almost all aspects of football, I have to give them some credit for their rush defense. In the last 3 weeks, opposing backfields have failed to score more than 20 fantasy points against the Jets. I’m not entirely sold as they played the Dolphins, Bills, and Chiefs, none bousing a great rushing attack, except for the Chiefs (but when you have Mahomes he’ll just take over like we saw last week). The Cam Newton experience worked for the first few weeks of the season, but since returning from the COVID list, he has been a completely different quarterback. They scored 12 points against the Broncos, 6 against the 49ers, and 21 against the Bills. All while Cam failed to pass for more than 175 yards and 0 passing touchdowns. The game plan for the Pats is simple - run the ball effectively and play defense. Damien Harris should have a great game against a poorest Jets rushing attack that is the 7th easiest matchup for opposing RB’s. I like Harris as a solid RB2.
Bust - Ezekiel Elliot vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ah, of course I would have predicted to start Damien Harris while Zeke would be a bust! But seriously, It’s time to reconsider, at least for this season, what Zeke is. Since Dak went down to injury in week 5, the Cowboys have scored 1 (!!!!!!!!) touchdown since. Between abysmal quarterback play and injuries to 4/5 offensive lineman, Zeke is no longer a locked and loaded top 5 running back. Since week 5, he is RB29 in fantasy points/game and has seen only 4 targets over the past 2 weeks. In a plus matchup, with Dalton back, maybe Zeke can be played with confidence. This week with Garrett Gilbert under center against arguably the best defense in football, Zeke is a risky flex play.
While the Ravens were able to rush for 200 yards last week against the Steelers, don't be fooled, this is an ELITE front 7. Before last week, the Steelers had not given up 100 yards rushing to any backfield, and only 4 rushing touchdowns, with 2 coming in the same game. They are top 10 defensively in rushing yards/game and points/game. Vegas expects the Steelers to dominate this game, as they are 14.5 point ROAD FAVORITES. Dallas also has the lowest implied point total, 14.5 points, a whole 3 points lower than the Jets. Everything screams to sit all your Cowboys, including Ezekiel Elliot.
Edit - Zeke has been ruled out for week 9, but this stands for Tony Pollard! Pollard is a RB4 this week.
Start - Justin Jefferson vs. Detroit Lions
The Vikings plan going into week 8 against the Packers was simple - give the ball to Dalvin Cook and get out of the way. Not a bad game plan as Cook had a career day totaling 226 yards and 4 touchdowns. Don't get me wrong, I love Dalvin Cook as much as the next guy, but that's not happening again. Cousins only attempted 14 passes last week which limited the upside of Justin Jefferson and the passing game overall. Although Matt Stafford might miss this week against the Vikings, I can't imagine the Vikings having such a low passing total again, even if they rout the Lions.
The Lions are the 20th easiest matchup for opposing WR’s, giving up nearly 40 points/game to the position. Both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson should have a great day against 2 corners who have struggled this year in Jeffery Okudah and Amani Oruwariye. I like Justin Jefferson to have another one of his blow up games, as he makes his case for the best rookie WR.
Sleeper - Devante Parker @ Arizona Cardinals
Parker was a bust for me last week, and he was targeted 1 time, for 3 yards, and a touchdown. This week, I’m calling my shot - I think Tua is tired of hearing all the noise and puts up a solid game against the Cardinals, with Devante Parker leading the way. Parker had a breakout campaign in 2019, after he was free from the incompetence of Adam Gase, but has disappointed fantasy managers this season. Still, he is the highest targeted WR in Miami by far, while being banged up multiple times. Against an average defense where I expect Miami to keep up with a potent Cardinals offense, I expect Parker to bounce back.
While the Cardinals are not nearly as bad defensively as Tyler Lockett made it seem, the matchup for Parker against Dre Kirkpatrick is what excites me. While Parker is lined up all over the field, he is mostly in the slot and on the right side, which is where Kirkpatrick sees the majority of his snaps. Kirkpatrick has allowed the most yards, receptions, and tied for the most touchdowns allowed on the team. Parker has a higher bust potential than my usual sleepers, but the matchup against Kirkpatrick is one I expect the Dolphins to exploit.
Bust - Darius Slayton @ Washington Football Tea
I love the talent of Darius Slayton and believe he is one of the most underrated receivers in the game right now. Unfortunately, Slayton isn't in the greatest situation as he has a turnover prone quarterback and an offensive line that doesn't give him an opportunity to get down the field. He has only surpassed 5 receptions and 56 yards twice so far this year. He is a high upside play, but has a far greater chance of hurting your fantasy team.
The matchup versus Washington Football Team is as bad as it gets for fantasy WR’s. They are the #1 defense against the opposing WR corps, giving up 10.5 fantasy points LESS than the league average. Although Slayton did have a decent game against them in week 6, that was because he caught a touchdown. He only saw 4 targets, reeling in 2 receptions for 41 yards. In a plus matchup, Slayton is a great sleeper, but against the toughest defense against WR’s, Slayton is a super risky flex play.
Start - Hunter Henry vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Thought I wasn't going to find someone to start against the Raiders? Well, here we go. Hunter Henry has seen at least 7 targets in 5/7 games so far this season and has less than 4 receptions in only 2 games. For a TE, that's about as consistent as you get. Henry has seen the second most targets and receptions on the team. In a matchup against where I expect a shootout between two bad defenses, Hunter Henry is a borderline top 5 tight end.
The Raiders have been decent against TE’s, as they are the 13th hardest matchup. That has mostly been because of matchup. They have played the Panthers, Patriots, Bills, and in a winter storm against the Browns. All of those teams (Hooper was out for the Browns) do not utilize the TE position. In games where they play against teams who utilize the position like the Chiefs, Bucs, and Saints, they give up an average of 20.5 points/game to the position. I expect Henry to feast against a poorest defense.
Sleeper - Hayden Hurst vs. Denver Broncos
Quietly, Hurst is the TE6 in PPR leagues. Hurst has seen 6 or more targets in 4 of the previous 5 games. Over the past 3 weeks, Hurst has been as consistent as it gets. He has at least 4 receptions and 54 yards in each game, adding a touchdown in week 6, and he is averaging more points/game than Darren Waller in that time span. In a game where Ridley will either be limited or out, I expect Hurst to see an increase in targets.
The Broncos are coming off two matchups where they were able to limit opposing tight ends. They limited Kelce to the worst game of his season, albeit in a snowstorm. Then followed that up with limiting Hunter Henry for 4 catches for 33 yards. This mostly occurred because the Chargers got out to a big lead early, before losing in typical Chargers fashion. Vegas expects this game to have some scoring, as it's the 8th highest O/U of the week, with the Falcons having an implied point total of 26.5.
Bust - Eric Ebron @ Dallas Cowboys
Eric Ebron has been a valuable piece to the Steelers offense. He has given them reasonable production over the 2020 season, as he is the TE17 in PPR leagues. While I think the Steelers will have no problem against the Cowboys, I think they will be up big early phasing Ebron out of the offense.
The Cowboys defense has been decent against TE’s, as they rank 16th against the position. They limited Dallas Goedert and Richard Rogers last week to just 1 catch for 15 yards. This has more to do with game script than the Cowboys defense though. I expect the Steelers to be able to move the ball down the field early, then leaning on Connor for the rest of the game. I have Ebron outside of the top 15 TE’s this week.
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