This has been the most unpredictable NFL season I can remember in real terms. Luckily, fantasy football hasn’t been quite as unpredictable. There are certainly some unexpected aspects—I doubt anyone seriously predicted that Alex Smith would be the second highest scoring QB through nine weeks—but we’re starting to see the players we expected to be the top 50 fantasy football points scorers move up the ladder. That consistency makes it harder to win as the year goes on, but there are still some diamonds yet undiscovered in the NFL’s rough. I think I’ve found a couple, as I’ll explain below.
Matt Stafford vs CLE $6800
After several weeks of mediocre fantasy football outputs, Stafford is trending upward. He’s scored 20+ in his three last games, one of which came against the (shockingly) strong Saints defense. This week, he gets the Browns’ 16th ranked passing defense. I really like this matchup for two reasons:
- The Browns are better against the run than one would expect, allowing a league low 2.9 yards per carry.
- They’ve given up 16 passing TDs, tied for third most in the league.
I expect that Stafford and co. will exploit the Browns weaknesses, as every other team has done so far.
Josh McCown at TB $6100
It sure feels strange to suggest Josh McCown, but most of the heavy-hitters play in primetime this week, and Josh has been about as consistent as any QB in fantasy football terms. His fantasy football point totals aren’t that different than those of higher priced options, like Drew Brees.
The Jets should be able to exploit some of the obvious deficiencies in Tampa Bay’s secondary with their speedier players. Tampa has allowed 25 pass plays of 20+ yards (14th most), and 5 pass plays of 40+ yards (tied for 11th most). They’ve also surrendered 14 TDs to opponents (11th), while intercepting them only five times (21st).
My major concern for this game is that the Jets will be able to dominate on the ground, and not have to pass much, but I’m hoping that Fitzpatrick will play one of his best games, thus forcing the Jets to throw a lot.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs TB $4900
Fitzpatrick is about as erratic as quarterbacks come, but I’m expecting a good game from him. I think he’s probably looking for revenge against the team that wouldn’t pay him huge money two years ago. The Jets 10th ranked passing defense isn’t the best team to have a good game against, but they’ve allowed a league-high 19 passing TDs. Even with Mike Evans absent this week, the Bucs have a lot of weapons to use (Jackson, Brate, and Howard). The same concern exists here, as the Jets 29th ranked rushing defense suggest that this should be a run-dominated affair.
Either way, for $4900, I think Fitzpatrick is worth a risk in a couple of lineups. He put up 22 in his last start, and his price will allow you to spend more at other positions.
Alvin Kamara at BUF $6900
Ingram is still winning in the snap percentage, but Kamara’s effectiveness makes him the more valuable fantasy football halfback. He’s averaging 6 ypc, and seeing a lot of use in passing situations (as his 38 receptions suggest). The Bills give up a lot of yards through the air, but with two of the league’s better corners, they’re not an easy team to throw against. They’ve allowed only 7 TDs through nine weeks, and they have intercepted opponents 11 times (2nd). I think this will lead to a lot of running, and a lot of check downs, both of which bode well for Kamara’s fantasy football output.
Jerrick McKinnon at WAS $6600
He laid an egg the only time I recommended him, but he bounced right back to his usual 25+ ppg the following week. The Vikings field one of the most run heavy offensive attacks in the NFL, running 46.32% of the time (10th most). McKinnon’s YPC over the last three weeks has been rather pedestrian. Still, he’s a three down back, and his heavy utilization in the passing game makes him a strong play.
Jordan Howard at GB $6100
Howard has consistently beaten up on poor rushing defenses. He’s the engine for the Bears offense, and I’m not sure how hard GB will play this week with seemingly so little to play for.
Bilal Powell at TB $4000
Forte was ruled out this week, which makes Powell the number one HB against the Bucs’ 20th ranked rushing defense. Although Powell hasn’t put up impressive fantasy football numbers this year, it’s hard to not take a shot on a player this cheap against a team that allows 26.8 ppg to opposing halfbacks.
AJ Green at TEN $7700
There are three reasons I like this play.
- Andy Dalton loves throwing to AJ Green. He’s really the only player that Dalton can consistently hit.
- PFF gives Green a 51% advantage over Adoree’ Jackson, which I’ve found to be a reasonable indicator for success this season.
- Tennessee allows 33.7 fantasy football points per game to opposing WRs.
Given Dalton’s tendency to chuck it up and pray that Green pulls in the pass, this feels like a great matchup.
Adam Thielen at WAS $6700
Outside receivers aren’t strong plays against Washington, but they’re soft over the middle, resulting in a lot of production for opposing tight ends and slot receivers. Baldwin killed them last week (7-108-1) and Graham had a decent game (5-59), Ertz (5-89-1) and Agholor (4-45-1) both tallied nice totals in week 7. Even Aldrick Robinson (2-66-1) and Pierre Garcon (5-55) had reasonable output against them, although I think Norman missed that game. The Redskins seem scary at first, but aren’t too scary for Thielen’s matchup.
Juju Smith Schuster at IND $5600
Bryant is returning this week, but Schuster has come on strong the last few weeks, and the Steelers are usually smart enough to continue with the hot hand. That’s especially true when a typical starter is returning from a non-injury-related absence, as Bryant is this week. You have to find one or two guys in this price range, and he’s one of the better options, in terms of consistency.
Robbie Anderson at TB $5200
Anderson’s speed makes him dangerous when he’s given a chance to get deep. As I said above, when talking about Josh McCown, the Bucs give teams a lot chances to go deep. He’s also put up double digit fantasy football totals four weeks in a row now, which makes him hard to ignore this week.
Robert Woods vs HOU $5000
He’s coming on strong, and is obviously Goff’s favorite target. Last week he brought in two TDs, which really boosted his performance, but he’s been a double-digit performer most weeks, and Houston is having a lot of problems on defense with all those injuries.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins at TB $4800
The Bucs don’t give up a lot of points to opposing tight ends (9.8 per game), but McCown usually targets ASJ about five times per game, and that might improve this week with Jeremy Kerley suspended.
Kyle Rudolph at WAS $4600
Rudolph sees a lot of opportunity in the Minnesota offense every week. Those opportunities should lead to a lot of points against the ‘skins, who allow almost 17 ppg to opposing tight ends.
Cameron Brate @ NYJ $4100
His performance has dipped the past few weeks, but back in week 6 when Fitzpatrick last played, he scored 19.6 fantasy points. The Jets struggle against opposing tight ends, allowing them 14 fantasy football ppg. It’s a good matchup to begin with, made even better with Mike Evans suspended.
Bears vs GB $3000
To put it nicely, the Packers offense is not good when Rodgers doesn’t play. That’ll keep the game close, and the Bears thrive on close games. I haven’t seen much of Hundley, but I’ll take fellow Packernet writer Ryan Schlipp’s word on Hundley’s poor decision making. Remember, just two weeks ago, this Bears defense scored 30 fantasy football points against the Panthers offense. Only the most delusional Packers fan would say that this Rodgers-less offense is anywhere near as good as the Panthers.
Rams vs HOU $3600
The Rams give up a lot of yards and points, but their ability to get at the QB and take the ball away from opponents has brought in a lot of fantasy points the last three weeks. The Rams should run up a huge lead again this week, leaving Houston little choice but to throw the ball, which won’t end well for them, even with all that talent at WR.
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That’ll do it for this week. Good luck to all of you fine-tuning your lineups tonight and tomorrow. Check out our podcast for more daily fantasy football discussion.