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Heroes and Zeroes - Week 9 Fantasy Football Picks


Sometimes we can outsmart ourselves, can't we? I believe I've said this before, but the Texans-Seahawks game last week is a perfect example of how common sense can just go right out the window when a game defies logic and statistical analysis. At that point, all our best research and prognosticating looks downright idiotic. Hopefully you didn't do like me and bench Deshaun Watson (I still won that game, thankfully, otherwise I might not be here today) because he faced the vaunted Legion of Boom. In that same vein, Will Fuller V does seem to be, in fact, legit. Hey, at least I still had DeAndre Hopkins listed as a WR1.

At this point in the season, many of your start/sit answers are self-evident. You know who your heroes are, for the most part, and you know that you have no business owning, much less starting, the likes of Terrelle Pryor or Jonathan Stewart. No, I don't care that he scored on a one-yard goal-line plunge for the first time all season. What we try to do here is find those unlikely surprises that can carry a team to victory while avoiding the ones who can sink the ship in their place. Sometimes that one crucial lineup change can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Now, let's get to my fantasy "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for Week 9 of the NFL season. For my full opinion on all fantasy-relevant players, you can check out how my rankings stack up against the other experts this week, or simply consult our RotoBaller consensus rankings.

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Week 9 Lineup Heroes

QUARTERBACK

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams - Goff is my top streaming QB this week, just making it into my top 12. I picked him up in our RotoBaller Experts league since Tom Brady is on a bye, so I'm living or dying with this pick to some extent. Don't let it be said that I'm not a man of my word. No Janoris Jenkins is bad news for the Giants. They already allow a 14:3 TD:INT ratio to opposing signal callers and Jenkins has one of those picks. This year's Giants have allowed at least 24 points in five of the last six games and at least 320 passing yards in three of the last four. Goff isn't known to light it, throwing for 300 yards only once this year, but he should be efficient enough to get you a fair amount of points in Week 9.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions - His main receiver, Golden Tate, came back earlier than expected and now Kenny Golladay could see his first game action since Week 3. Stafford couldn't match up with Big Ben and the Steelers in Week 8, but he pushed the ball down the field more effectively than most QBs they've faced this season. He somehow came away with 423 yards, yet couldn't lead his team to a single touchdown. Now, he'll face a Packers squad that is hurting on both sides of the ball. It won't be a typical shootout between these teams, but even if the yardage goes down, Stafford should toss a couple of scores and enter the QB1 ranks again.

 

RUNNING BACKS

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints - Each week, we make a bold prediction or two on the podcast, which you should check out because it's really quite lovely. But I digress. This week, I put Alvin Kamara as a top-10 RB and predicted that he would outscore Mark Ingram. According to coach Sean Payton, he is not placing Mark Ingram in the doghouse after his two-fumble game in Week 8. So, Ingram will still be playing. That doesn't mean he'll be playing as much as he would have. We know the man crush Payton has for Kamara and he's never been shy about sending a message to Ingram. If we see the same bad Tampa team from last week (actually last month, since they've lost four in a row), then there should be plenty of time for Kamara to get some second-half work. His floor keeps slowly creeping up each week, to the point where he's a must-start in PPR leagues.

Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens - Alex Collins became a waiver wire darling last week after tearing up the Dolphins on Thursday night, while Allen is becoming a forgotten man. The fact remains that Collins runs pass routes 18% of the time, which is the least among qualified running backs. He is a complete non-factor as a receiver, which makes him good as a frontrunner in games where the Ravens have a lead. I don't think Tennessee will be scoring a lot this week (see Mariota below), but it should be a competitive game that requires Baltimore to pass a fair amount. Allen's three targets last week were his lowest since Week 1 when Danny Woodhead was still around. He'll go back to being a floor play in PPR leagues against a team that allows the seventh-most receiving yards to RB.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals - While Adrian Peterson fits in this category too, he's an obvious start against San Francisco. Many owners left Ellington for dead after a dud, an injury and a bye left him without a single fantasy points three weeks in a row. He's still the main pass-catcher in Arizona and should retain every bit of his PPR value. If anything, Carson Palmer's absence might mean more short throws and dumpoffs to Ellington, since Drew Stanton doesn't have the arm strength or the moxie of Palmer. Monitor his quad injury to make sure he's good to go, but if he plays, he could be a nice flex option.

Damien Williams, Miami Dolphins - We all get desperate sometimes, right? Bienvenido a Miami. You won't see a more desperate 4-3 team than the Fins, who are now relying on two lightly-used backups to form a RBBC to replace their Pro Bowl running back. Kenyan Drake will be the popular add and should be the starter, but Williams has more experience and matches him physically in many ways. Williams has been used more as a pass-catcher in the last two seasons and had six touchdowns in 58 touches last season. He's got a shot to provide some flex appeal in this deep bye week, assuming the Dolphins can even sniff the red zone.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons - While Matt Ryan has seemingly forgotten that Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the world, he has rekindled a once-lost relationship with WR2 Mohamed Sanu. Since missing Week 6, Sanu has 12 catches on 17 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown in two road games. They again hit the road to face Carolina, where he'll match up with a declining Captain Munnerlyn, who is allowing a 75% catch rate. He isn't the most exciting play, but I like high floors and I cannot lie.

Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams - I'm making a concerted effort not to get too excited about a receiver who has just four red zone targets and ranks 114th among all players in overall targets. As mentioned earlier, this matchup gives Watkins his best chance to take advantage of a secondary without its best player. I'd also like to think the Rams used their week off to figure out how to work their best receiver into the gameplan somehow. Don't play him over your usual starters, but consider him a boom-bust flex option.

Jermaine Kearse, New York Jets - With Jeremy Kerley suspended, the team might go back to Kearse as the designated possession receiver. He'll draw less attention from the Bills, who may still be without their best corner, E.J. Gaines. Kearse has steadily drawn 4-5 targets each game over the past month while averaging 42.8 YPG, but he has scored four touchdowns on the year.

 

TIGHT END

Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins - Jordan Reed out, Vernon Davis in. Rinse, repeat. The Skins truly spread the ball around, with 11 different receivers seeing targets this season, but there's no competition at the TE spot with Reed doubtful and Niles Paul in the concussion protocol. He won't see a ton of targets, but with a career and league-high 18.4 yards per reception this season, he may not need to.

 

Week 9 Lineup Zeroes

QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans - Putting Brock Osweiler or Drew Stanton would be way too obvious here, so let's go with someone who borders on QB1 status each week. Mariota was a popular pick among those who chose to wait for the position in drafts. Instead of delivering mid-round value, he's been a disappointment. He is averaging 216 pass yards per game and has a 4:4 TD:INT rate. For sake of comparison, those stats are about the same as Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, and Jacoby Brissett. The Ravens D already has two shutouts on its resume and allow the fewest completions per game, so this matchup is no joke. While it's doubtful they make it a third shutout, this is not a time to put your faith back in Mariota.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts - I'm going to call last week's game for the Houston defense what it was - an anomaly. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are huge losses to be sure, but not enough to turn them into last year's 49ers, or any year's Browns. Brissett isn't getting the job done against anything but the worst of opponents and it won't change any time soon.

 

RUNNING BACKS

Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys - Here we go again. Zeke is finally, maybe, probably going to serve his double-secret probation. That means someone else gets to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. We all thought it would be Run DMC at the onset of the season, but now that he's been officially inactive for more than half of their games, do you still believe? Even so, he's going to split some time with Alfred Morris and might need a little time to shake off the rust. This isn't San Fran they're facing, it's the Chiefs. I expect Dak Prescott to get more action than the running game. Go ahead and spend a speculative waiver claim on McFadden, but don't start him right away.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders - Unlike loyal Raiders fans in the preseason, fantasy owners aren't too excited that Beast Mode is back. Other than two very short touchdown plunges, Lynch has offered almost nothing over the last seven weeks. Neither of his backfield mates did much to take the job away from him in Week 8, but this may lean more toward a committee simply due to Lynch's ineffectiveness. Miami is a mess on offense, but their D-line remains one of the best in the league.

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars - Did you see what Yeldon did last week when he was given the chance? Yes, and did you see what he did the previous six weeks when he was a DNP-coach's decision? Fournette is healthy coming off a bye and that's all that matters. Yeldon has never been anything but a low-end PPR flex, and that's back when he didn't have much competition for touches. He goes back to irrelevancy once again, even if he's active.

C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos - He's facing the Eagles and he's now going to be taking handoffs from Brock Osweiler. In the words of David S. Pumpkins, any questions?

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Does anybody recognize how good rookie Marshon Lattimore has been? He finally got some props after being named Defensive Rookie of the Month for October. Being a defensive player in New Orleans, it was an uphill battle to climb. Believe it or not, Lattimore grades out as the top CB in the entire league entering Week 9. Not top rookie, top CB. Period. Naturally, he'll shadow Mike Evans this week. You're starting him anyway due to his TD upside, but he could be in for a tough afternoon.

Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins - Remember when we used to fade players when they faced Seattle because they had a tough pass defense? Ah, the good old days. It's doubtful we'll see a showing like last week's again, but that's not the only reason to ignore Doctson. Three scores in five games may draw your attention, but let me remind you that in each of those games, it was his only reception. If you're in a non-PPR league and need a dart throw, you can roll the dice that he finds the end zone against the Hawks. I prefer someone with a semblance of a track record like Sanu or Kearse, personally.

 

TIGHT END

Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions - He was finally less than zero last week, which is something that couldn't be said earlier. Ebron reeled in a 44-yard reception and was targeted six times against Pittsburgh, the second-highest number of the season for him. Now that he's staying in Detroit for sure, at least for the rest of 2017, he'll be the TE1. He still doesn't approach that status in fantasy, as Ebron's 46.9% catch rate didn't improve. This may be a soft matchup for the receivers, but not the tight ends. Plus, I'm fresh off trick-or-treating and not about to get tricked into putting a Cowardly Lion in my lineup.

 

More Week 9 Lineup Prep