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Week 9 Sleepers and Busts
A nationwide flood warning is in effect. Grab your umbrella because there’s a storm brewing out there. The hurricane otherwise known as weeks 9-11 was forecasted back when the NFL schedule makers decided to develop an unprecedented bye week system. Weeks 5-8 were the calm before the storm. Sure there was light rain at times for some owners with 2 teams per week having byes, but for many owners there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, especially in that joke of a week when Miami and Oakland were off. Storms at their worst are strong enough destroy houses and even cities and this 21 day long storm from week 9 to week 11 is threatening to ruin fantasy teams over the next 3 weeks, and maybe even entire fantasy seasons around the country. With 6 teams on byes this week and next week, and 4 teams off in week 11, there has never been a more critical time to reach into your bag of tricks. Work that waiver wire and don’t be afraid to reach deep on your roster during these weeks because at some point you’re going to need to take chances. The results of these three weeks will have a tremendous impact on your playoff possibilities.
So all of you owners of Julio, Roddy, Ryan, Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Watkins, Stafford, Joique, Golden, Cutler, BMarsh, Jeffery, Forte, Bennett and any injured player…. let me help lead you out of this storm completely avoiding any damage at all with these sleepers and bust predictions for week 9.
Without further ado, your week 9 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Tony Romo v. Arizona. OR Andy Dalton v. Jacksonville All of you WWE fans, and back when I was watching, WWF fans, tell me that what you saw last week in Dallas wasn’t reminiscent of something you’d see at Wrestlemania, or since it was only week 8 and it was on Monday Night, Monday Night Raw. The Cowboys stadium is so over the top, and you had the same type of theatrics with Jerry Jones being in the owner’s box, then on the sideline, then in the trainer’s room and then back on the sideline as the messenger to head coach Jason Garrett, telling him that Romo was ready to come back in for the final drive. It’s just not something you see in the NFL. We saw Romo come out of the tunnel with a few minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and the crowd went wild, almost like we were seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin making a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble after a year-long injury.
My point is that the Cowboys just love this kind of dramatic BS, and all I take from it is that Romo is healthy enough to play football. I truly think he’s going to be in the lineup against Arizona, a team that ranks dead last in passing yards against. If Romo is active, the Cardinals will be stacking the box, sending risky blitzes and giving up big chunks of yards through the air. I’ve seen this act before with Romo playing through pain, and more importantly, playing well while injured. I get to list him as a sleeper because the Cowboys create this kind of atmosphere that makes this a bigger deal than it really is, and owners will be wary to use him even if he’s pronounced as the starter. Romo is one of the top fantasy QBs since week 3, so start him as you normally would against a passing defense that gives up more yards through the air than anybody.
If for some reason I’m wrong, and Romo actually does not play I have a bonus sleeper at QB for you that’s Andy Dalton at home against Jacksonville with A.J. Green back on the field. Dalton, a top 5 fantasy QB just a year ago has certainly missed his top receiving option but he’s actually excelled in 3 of the last 4 weeks a stretch in which he’s had 6 TDs (including 2 rushing) and 3 INTs. AJ Green’s presence is huge on its own but it will also allow breakout WR Mohamed Sanu to operate against number 2 CBs one on one all day long. He’s been playing absolutely out of his mind with Green out of the lineup and he’s sure to continue excel against lesser competition. Even with Giovanni Bernard out of the lineup the Bengals will move the ball against an inferior opponent, Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been playing a lot better defense of late but their last three opponents, Miami, Cleveland and Tennessee, have significantly worse QBs than Dalton and do not possess a WR duo comparable to AJ Green and Mohamed Sanu. I like Romo if he’s available more than Dalton but if Romo is out, look for Dalton to look like he did last season.
I’d Start Tony Romo OR Andy Dalton over: Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer
· Ryan Tannehill v. San Diego. In the long run I am a believer in Ryan Tannehill, but I had much higher expectations from him last week when he opposed an already poor defense that was loaded with injuries. Almost all of his stats (196 yds 1 TD 1 INT) were accumulated when the game was out of reach and the only thing impressive about his day were his 48 yards rushing. After his disappointment in week 8, Tannehill’s only truly high level performances have come against two awful defenses in Chicago and Oakland. This week he does come home, but San Diego is a less than ideal matchup. The Chargers rank 6th in passing yards against and they return two CBs (Brandon Flowers and Shareece Wright) from injury. Mike Wallace, despite having a bounce back season, has complained about his role in the offense and the lack of deep balls coming his way. His speed is not being fully utilized and Tannehill has not shown the ability to complete these types of passes at a high rate. Look for the Chargers to do what they do best and sustain long drives eating up clock, while the Dolphins will continue to play more of the same conservative run the ball and throw dink and dunk type passes in the short and intermediate game. There aren’t going to be enough possessions against a quality pass defense like San Diego for Tannehill to be worth starting. Look elsewhere for your bye week replacement.
I’d Start the following players over Ryan Tannehill: Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Brian Hoyer
· Shane Vereen v. Denver. The roller coaster ride for Shane Vereen owners continued in last week’s thrashing of the Bears when Jonas Gray dominated the backfield touches. However, if you take a closer look, there was at least one encouraging sign for Vereen owners. Vereen got 5 touches and/or targets inside the 10 yard-line including two goal line runs. It seems like game flow will dictate whether Vereen has a monumental game, big game, average game, or below average game. I do not see him having any total busts going forward. This matchup against Denver is the perfect setup for the monumental type of performance. The Patriots and Bill Belichick have had success against Peyton Manning in the past, but win or lose, nobody is slowing down Denver right now, so we’re sure to see a high scoring, high pace game. Denver ranks first in the NFL in rushing yards against, so don’t expect to see Jonas Gray rumbling down the field. This is the ideal game for Vereen’s skillset. The fact that Gronk is at the top of his game and that Brandon LaFell has established himself as a go to guy, will only help free up the middle of the field for Vereen to operate 1 on 1 against a LB. Expect Vereen to see 8+ targets and the ceiling for him, especially in PPR leagues, is unlimited.
I’d start Shane Vereen over: Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, Jerick McKinnon, Denard Robinson, Chris Ivory
· Chris Ivory at Kansas City. Chris Ivory is a fine player and is one of the biggest surprises at the RB position this season, but this week owners should look for other options. The Jets travel to Kansas City, and let’s be honest; they’re going to lose big. There's no doubt that Kansas City will be stacking the box with their dominant front seven led by Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and will force Michael Vick to throw. This alone does not eliminate Ivory from a start because the Jets have lost big throughout the season and Ivory has been great. But, combine that with the fact that we’re in week 9 and Kansas City has allowed ZERO rushing TDs this season and right there we have our the nail in the coffin. Again, running backs such as Montee Ball, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, and Branden Oliver have combined for ZERO TDs on the ground against this team. I would not bet on Chris Ivory and the Jets breaking that trend.
I’d start the following players over Chris Ivory: Shane Vereen, Ben Tate, Jeremy Hill, Branden Oliver, Andre Williams
· Andrew Hawkins v. Cleveland. The Baby Hawk has been soaring up and down the field the last 2 weeks to the tune of 12 catches for 200 yards and 1 TD. With Jordan Cameron likely out, he's far and away Brian Hoyer’s number 1 option in the passing game at home against the absolute worst fantasy defense against WRs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have accomplished this feat through 8 weeks and now have traded away the best player in their secondary, safety Mark Barron. Look for Brian Hoyer to have a field day with the main beneficiary being the vastly underrated Hawkins. I’ve seen him ranked as WR26-30, but in a shallow week like this, I’m giving him top 20 value. He’s already had five games with over 70 yards and I’m projecting him for at least seven catches for 80-110 yards and a maybe even a TD.
I’d Start Andrew Hawkins over: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Doug Baldwin, Keenan Allen
· Michael Crabtree v. St. Louis. The hype and respect that Michael Crabtree receives from fantasy owners and experts world-wide baffles me. Listen, I will admit the guy does have a really cool name, but otherwise what else does he really have going for him? Is it his 2013 of 19 catches and 284 yards in an injured season with only 5 regular season games? Or is it his 2014 campaign where he is on pace for only 73 catches for 736 yards? What other player who has topped out at 49 yards receiving in the last 4 games would be ranked as a WR2 on expert lists this week? He’s ranked as the #24 WR and it is just incredible to me. Sure, the Rams are a fine matchup. Colin Kaepernick threw for over 300 yards in their last meeting and that game was one of Crabtree’s best moments of the season when he had 3 catches for 49 yards and a TD. In other words, he isn’t very good. Anquan Boldin has dominated the Rams for years and I would expect this game to be no different. The additions of Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd to the 49ers receiving core certainly have not helped Crabtree one bit. However, if you like seeing your players on the sideline stretching their feet out by stepping on a tennis ball or a softball or whatever that ball is, then Crabtree is surely your man. But, if you want statistics, production and fantasy points I’d look elsewhere.
I’d start the following players over Michael Crabtree: Andrew Hawkins, Odell Beckham Jr. , Doug Baldwin, Pierre Garcon, Allen Robinson
· Clay Harbor v. Cincinnati. Blake Bortles is having a rough start to his NFL career. He’s turned the ball over plenty and his team, as a result, has fallen behind in many games fairly quickly. However, Bortles was the number 1 QB drafted and every game he has certain drives and plays that display exactly why he was the most coveted player in the 2014 NFL draft. Look for Cincinnati to take the lead early in this game and never look back, forcing Bortles into a second half full of passing. Cincinnati is totally inept at covering any TE with a pulse, and Clay Harbor does have one. Other than Levine Toilolo and Crocket Gilmore, every tight end they have faced this season has gone for double digit fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues. This list includes Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, and Dwayne Allen. Is Clay Harbor closer talent wise to Levine Toilolo and Crocket Gilmore than these other stud tight ends? Definitely. But the Jaguars dial up plenty of plays (even deep plays) for Harbor, and Bortles has confidence in his TE. If you’re streaming, look for Clay Harbor to deliver low end TE1 numbers.
I’d start Clay Harbor over: Vernon Davis, Timothy Wright, Jace Amaro, Heath Miller
· Jordan Reed at Minnesota. Against the tight end, Minnesota has allowed only New Orleans’ Josh Hill, to score double digit fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues. They are ranked number 7 overall against TEs and they give up the 4th fewest passing yards per game, so this is sure to be a tough draw for Jordan Reed. RG III will be making his first start since week 2 and he will be rusty. Reed has had to share looks at the TE position with Niles Paul and has not yet broken out the way that owners who drafted him thought he would when he became healthy. I believe in Jordan Reed long term, as RG III gets comfortable playing quarterback again, but I would avoid starting him this week.
I’d start the following players over Jordan Reed: Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Jason Witten, Zach Ertz,
That’ll do it for week 9. Let’s take this three week storm of byes one week at a time. Here’s to sunny skies and a disaster free week 9. Good luck to you all. Feel free to drop a comment question or criticism and I’ll do my best to give you a prompt response.
View Alan Kotok's Flickr page here.
Start of the Week:
Colin Kaepernick v. St. Louis - #6 in Weekly Rankings
If you’re fortunate enough to own Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, I don’t think I need to tell you to get them in the lineup this week. But, if you own Colin Kaepernick and you’re thinking about starting someone other than those aforementioned QBs, think again. Kaepernick is currently the 10th ranked QB in .5 PPR leagues, which is fine, but he should be ranked at least a few spots higher. Brandon Lloyd and Steve Johnson have been superb additions to a pass catching core that already includes Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Lloyd, Johnson, and Boldin for the most part, have done their jobs in making this a potent passing offense. However, Vernon Davis has played as poor as possible this season, dropping several passes along the way including at least 1 TD. Anquan Boldin also dropped a gimme 3 yard TD against the Broncos in week 7 that he catches the next million or so times the ball is thrown to him. Kaepernick is playing mostly mistake free football and his legs are still as much of a weapon as they’ve been in the past. Crabtree and Vernon had the bye week to heal their minor maladies and should be ready to prove themselves in the second half of the season. Kaepernick’s floor is high and his ceiling is higher in a matchup against the Rams, the 27th ranked team against fantasy QBs, and the team he wiped the floor with just 3 weeks ago to the tune of 343 yards passing, 3 TDs and 37 rushing yards.
Cleveland Browns v. Tampa Bay - #5 in Weekly Rankings
Tampa Bay looks like they’re just about ready to pack in the season while doing their best to win the Jameis Winston sweepstakes. They’ve started unloading players for draft picks, albeit none on the offensive side of the ball, but maybe that’s because nobody finds their offensive players attractive enough to trade for. Tampa ranks 29th in passing yards, 28th in rushing yards and if you haven’t guessed already, dead last in total yards on offense. Their biggest loss on offense this season may not have even been from a player. Offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, took a leave of absence for medical reasons right before week 1 and his replacement, Marcus Arroyo, has not shown any ability to lead an offense that moves the ball. The Browns are by no means an elite defense, otherwise they’d be ranked higher. However, they’ve forced 11 turnovers in 7 games and will sustain time consuming drives, limiting Tampa Bay’s ability to score points.
Alex Smith v. New York Jets - #12 in Weekly Rankings
Alex Smith was a favorite of mine last week and he let me down. I’m going double or nothing on him this week against a defense that just got torched by Kyle Orton for 238 yards and 4 TDs on only TEN completions! This performance brought the Jets TD/INT ratio to an unimaginable 22:1 on the season. Alex Smith is coming off a 0 TD game against the Rams, but he moved the ball well completing 24 of 28 passes en route to a 34-7 victory. Nobody really stops Jamal Charles but the Jets normally do have a stout run defense. Look for Smith to continue his efficient play but this time get the ball in the endzone through the air at least twice. Start Alex Smith as a bye week fill in for Ryan, Stafford, Cutler, or Rodgers or as a complete matchup play in place of one of the QBs listed below him in the rankings.
Minnesota Vikings v. Washington - #6 in Weekly Rankings
Minnesota has a better defense than you would think. They rank 4th in passing yards against and a respectable 17th against the run. This defensive unit is riding high after returning a fumble for a TD in last week’s overtime thriller over Tampa Bay. The Vikings go home for the Redskins and either Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III. McCoy worked his magic in an emotional game for him in his home state of Texas. He pulled a rabbit out of his hat to earn the miracle victory over big bad Dallas. However, even in this performance that nobody expected, he still did not have a passing TD, got sacked 3 times and threw an interception. The sacks and turnovers are likely to continue but an encore of magical plays and victories on the road are not very likely. RG III practiced fully on Wednesday and at this point in the week there is a good shot that he will get the start. My ranking for Minnesota does not change in the event that RG III plays. Griffin is sure to be rusty and tentative, and we’ve seen that a rusty, overly cautious Griffin is a turnover prone and ineffective quarterback. If he does start in place of McCoy, the Redskins may score a few more points, but I would increase the Vikings’ chances at causing multiple turnovers.
Michael Vick at Kansas City - #20 in Weekly Rankings
There are some people out there that cannot resist taking a flier on Michael Vick when he’s named the starter. In deep 2 QB leagues during a bye week like this, you really have no choice. Still, I would not voluntarily want any part of this Jets' offense at KC, including the QB. Vick is terribly inaccurate (48.2 completion %) and is a shell of the injury prone dual threat and fantasy stud from his pre jail/dog fighting days that owners dream of when they pick him up. He can make some plays with his legs, which is big for a quarterback, but only if he is also able to make a few plays with his arm as well. That ability seems to have escaped him. I do not view him much differently than I viewed Terrelle Pryor last year. If he starts the rest of the year, Vick, like Pryor last year, is sure to have 1 or 2 games that are fantasy gold. However, the Chiefs with Pro Bowlers Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Tamba Hali are a very good and fast defense and they will not be the 1 team that Vick gets the best of. Let someone else take a chance.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants - #11 in Weekly Rankings
I’m kind of hedging with this ranking of the Colts. The Colts are one of my favorite defenses in the NFL, but that is only with a healthy Vontae Davis. The loss of Davis opened the flood gates last week against Pittsburgh. Darius Butler was burned time after time and Greg Toler looks a lot better on number 2 WRs than he does on top WRs….although nobody ever looks good when covering Antonio Brown. The Colts defense had been great all season prior to last week’s lapse against the Steelers. The Giants lack the weapons like LeVeon Bell/Antonio Brown/Heath Miller that devastated the Colts throughout the game last week. I would like this matchup if Davis plays but if he’s out, look for the Giants to take advantage of Darius Butler. In summary if Vontae Davis is able to go then I see the Colts as high as #8. If he is out, (he missed practice on Wednesday) then I see them as low as #17. So I’m rating them #11 for now, but beware of the Vontae Davis’s status.
An all-out Eifert will be required to ensure your team is among the best it can possibly be. As the fantasy playoffs near, it's always good to have depth at each position on your roster so you can plan for injuries and give yourself a shot at a more favorable matchup.
When it comes to the tight end position, quality performances on a repeat basis can be hard to come by at times. So far this fantasy season, only about seven tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, Dwayne Allen and Jimmy Graham) have more than 60 fantasy points. The first five of those TEs could be considered in the top tier this year, while the next two make up the 'slightly below No. 1 tier'. After those seven, there's a bit of a drop off with Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Heath Miller, Owen Daniels and Zach Ertz making up the 'feast or famine' No.2 tier.
So if you don't have one of those seven (and there's about a 50 percent chance you don't if you're in a 12 or 14 team league), you might want to take a look at a few other options especially as the playoffs near. If you have one of the lower tier tight ends listed above, giving another guy a shot at being your No. 1 tight end could make a difference when it matters most.
The case for Eifert
One of the players most owners will be looking at in the coming weeks is Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, a second-year man out of Notre Dame who's due to return from I.R. by Week 11 after suffering an elbow injury in Week 1. He caught all three of his targets for 37 yards before going down in that one game.
Possessing soft hands, Eifert stands an impressive 6'6, 250 lbs and his speed is something of a mystery still. While he was initially dubbed a Jason Witten clone coming out, Eifert impressed scouts with his speed after he ran a 4.6 40, which was the fourth fastest time among all tight ends. You factor that in with his height and this is somebody who has all the tools to be great.
the Bengals are also invested in him since they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Plus, on a team riddled with injuries to its receiving core, Eifert steps into a favorable situation where his services could be relied upon much more than last year.
As a rookie in 2013, Eifert recorded at least one catch in 15 games and finished with 39 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. While his two touchdowns were a bit underwhelming and he never recorded a 100-yard game, Eifert displayed a knack for remaining involved in an offense that was crowded with the likes of fellow tight end Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard and of course, A.J. Green.
When you factor in the fact that Bernard was one of the most targeted running backs in the league last season, it made it that much more difficult for Eifert to find his spot within the offense. It's no surprise he wasn't making a huge impact. Eifert finished the 2013 season with 59 targets, which ranked sixth behind Gresham, Sanu, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Bernard.
Keep in mind, young receivers often take a little longer to become difference makers in the first few years of their career. Guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez didn't begin to put up fantasy worthy numbers until their second and third years. Not saying Eifert will put up those numbers eventually, it's just worth noting that receiving tight ends don't come out and crush it immediately.
A brighter picture for him in 2014
Eifert won't have to compete with so many other receivers for targets like he did last season. With Jones out for the year, there's 80 targets up for grabs right there. Bernard isn't seeing the kind of targets he did last year as the Bengals have become more of a run team under new coach Hue Jackson.
Also, There's less of a chance Gresham interferes with Eifert's production like last season, as the fifth-year tight end hasn't been much of a factor with just 28 catches for 211 yards and zero touchdowns in 2014. There were even talks of him possibly getting traded which would've given Eifert's value an even bigger boost, but now that the trade deadline has passed it's unlikely that will happen.
Eifert is currently on schedule to return for Cincy's Week 11 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, a team that ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (289). The next three games are good matchups as well with Houston (28th against the pass), Tampa Bay (30th against the pass) and Pittsburgh (19th against the pass).
What you should do about it
Since he's not due back until a few more weeks, it'd be wise to grab Eifert either now or next week before he becomes more of a wanted man. It'd be best to acquire him without wasting a waiver pickup unless your tight end spot is your greatest weakness. Still, there's not a lot of receiving tight ends with more upside than Eifert at the moment. He's well worth the acquisition especially if your team appears destined for the playoffs and needs a few more quality depth guys to ensure you don't get snake bitten by an unlucky injury.
View Navin Rajagopalan's Flickr page here.
Editor's note: In light of the recent possibility of Doug Martin getting traded, this article from July 20, 2014 was re-posted to help inform you on rookie running back Charles Sims.
Every running back in the NFL can catch a pass or two thrown his way, but there are few who are truly exceptional receivers. Those gifted with the hand-eye coordination and awareness required to be a prolific pass catcher are some of the most potent fantasy players you can draft due to their versatility.
Start of the Week
1. Sammy Watkins v. New York Jets #15 Weekly Rankings
Watkins had his first career 100-yard receiving game in week 7 against the Vikings, including the game winning touchdown catch with two seconds remaining. Now that Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback in Buffalo, Watkins should be a more consistent fantasy option in the second half of the season.
After his best game as a pro in week 7, Watkins now gets the fortune to play against a Jets secondary that is exposable. The Jets are allowing an average of 22 fantasy points-per-week to opposing wide receivers, a number ranking them in the bottom half of the league. In the three weeks that Kyle Orton has been the Bills starting quarterback, Watkins registered 10 or more targets in two of the three weeks, showing Watkins is going to get plenty of work going forward.
Even though head coach Doug Marrone has a preference for a running-dominated offense, I do not see the combination of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon having a lot of success against the Jets front-seven. If the Bills want any hope of pulling the upset in New York, Watkins will to be involved early and often against the suspect Jets secondary.
2. Zach Ertz v. Arizona Cardinals #8 Weekly Rankings
Early on this season, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was looking like a diamond in the rough for fantasy owners. Ertz was heavily involved in the Eagles passing offense, totaling 7 catches on 10 targets for 161 receiving yards and one score in the first two weeks of the season. However it has been rough sailing for Ertz lately, having just 143 yards combined after week two.
If you were patient with Ertz, I think this is one week you can depend on him to put up some high-end TE1 numbers. The Cardinals' defense has allowed an average of 9.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, a number that ranks them in the bottom-10 in the NFL. With Ertz’s ability to attack a defense vertically, I think Ertz could have his best game of the season. If you remember last year, the Cardinals also struggled against tight ends, and Ertz benefited from that and recorded his first break out game as a rookie in 2013. Ertz caught five of six passes for 68 and two touchdowns in that contest. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals linebacker’s struggle in coverage, especially ILB Larry Foote. Foote has been picked apart in coverage this season, allowing 20 receptions leading to a passer rating of 97.4 on passes thrown in his direction.
If you had the patience to stick with the ultra-athletic tight end, I believe your patience will pay off this weekend.
1. Doug Baldwin v. Carolina Panthers #25 Weekly Rankings
Fresh off a 7-catch, 123-yard game against the St. Louis Rams in week 7, Baldwin looks to keep the hot-streak going against one of the most underachieving defenses in the NFL.
When the Seahawks sent Percy Harvin to the Jets for a conditional draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, I had a serious question as to who was going to pick up the slack out of the Seahawks' receivers. Although none of the Seahawks' receivers are going to make opposing defensive coordinators cower in fear, Baldwin’s skill-set will lend itself to consistency. He's not going to make many big plays (only 4 passes thrown 15 yds+ this season) but his route-running combined with his consistent hands should make him a reliable option for quarterback Russell Wilson, who has exceptional accuracy to the short and intermediate areas of the field.
Baldwin was likely one of the first couple players picked up off of the waiver wire this week and I feel he has a chance to make an impact right away for fantasy owners. The Panthers have been terrible from a fantasy perspective against opposing wide receivers, allowing a league-high 12 touchdowns and an average of 26.4 fantasy points-per-game.
2. Jordan Reed v. Dallas Cowboys #9 Weekly Rankings
I know that Colt McCoy is starting for the Redskins, and that does scare me a little bit. However, I still feel that Redskins tight end Jordan Reed is still capable of having a very productive fantasy day against a Cowboys' defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
So far in the early stages of the NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises in the league with their 6-1 start. Coming off a season in which they allowed an NFL record for total yards allowed, many people (including myself) figured the struggles would continue due to the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball (especially the front-four).
Despite the team being ranked the no. 14 defense in the NFL in terms of yards per game, the Dallas defense has been susceptible to big games from tight ends. The Cowboys defense has allowed the most receptions (50) and rank in the bottom two in yards (541) and touchdowns (7) to tight ends. Even though the Redskins are down to their third-string quarterback, I still feel that Reed has the ability to carve out a very productive fantasy day.
1. Brandon Marshall AND Alshon Jeffery v New England Patriots #13 and 14 Weekly Rankings
Now before you panic fantasy owner’s let me just be clear that I am NOT telling you too bench Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. However, I am telling you to temper your expectation’s for the tandem this weekend.
Last weekend it was reported that Brandon Marshall was frustrated with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his inability to take care of the football. While Cutler has had his issues, I feel like Marshall was letting out more of his own personal frustration then specifically too Cutler. Marshall is currently on pace for around 75 receptions and 750 yards, totals that would be the worst since his final season in Miami,
Jeffery has been the more consistent of the two Bears receivers so far this season, but last weekend was held in check, totaling just one catch for 9 yards. This weekend the tandem of Marshall and Jeffery get to take on combination of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, two cornerbacks that love to play physical man-to-man coverage with receivers. As expected the Patriots have been great against opposing wide receivers this season, allowing the second fewest fantasy points on a weekly basis (14.7). Even though I still expect the tandem of Marshall and Jeffery to still put up respectable numbers, I just advise tempering your expectations with a very tough matchup in this week 8 matchup with the Patriots.