Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 9
If you are a regular reader of my sleepers column, you’ll know by now that I like to use these intros to rant about some sort of observation, good or bad. Today, I’d like to vent about the AFC versus the NFC.
While the AFC has the perennial villain as well as the seemingly perennial league-winning New England Patriots sitting at a perfect 8-0 record, the American Football Conference doesn’t have anything much else to offer up but an overabundance of question marks.
Sure, they have the Chiefs, who employ the reigning NFL MVP Pat Mahomes, but Kansas City has a ton of holes. Not only do they struggle to run the football since losing Kareem Hunt — and I’m not talking about Damien Williams’ fantasy production last year, I’m referring to a back who has the ability to grind clock and close a game — but the Chiefs also struggle on defense, albeit they are improved from last season. Pair that with a swiss cheese offensive line that has already gotten Mahomes injured three different times this season — two ankles and a knee — and the Chiefs aren’t as good as advertised.
While Buffalo appeared to be the second-best team in the AFC, they were exposed by the Eagles in Week 8, proving that if they are in a shootout, their offense doesn’t have the firepower to climb out of a hole. And although their defense is viewed as the second or third best in the NFL behind the Patriots and perhaps the 49ers, they can be exposed, especially on the ground.
If you ask me, the next best team in the AFC behind the Patriots is the Ravens. Their offense can put up points and run the ball well while Lamar Jackson has shown he can competently complete the forward pass when Hollywood Brown is healthy and Mark Andrews isn’t suffering from the dropsies.
Baltimore trading for Marcus Peters will be a difference-maker. While Peters is shaping up to be a problematic journeyman who sometimes quits during a play or a game, he is an elite cornerback. With Jimmy Smith returning as soon as Week 9, Marlon Humphrey holding his own and Earl Thomas lurking around the defensive backfield at safety, the Ravens’ pass rush should begin to open up moving forward as a result of their talented secondary.
If you want a dark-horse team that can make a run in the AFC, watch out for the Jaguars. Not only are they playing better than expected sans Jalen Ramsey on defense, but with a sound running game behind Leonard Fournette, a trio of young and talented wideouts with upside and the intangibles of the returning Nick Foles — not to mention Garnder Minshew is legit in his own right — I would not sleep on Jacksonville.
The NFC is quite different. While the AFC has one team with more than five wins — the aforementioned Patriots — the NFC employs five teams with at least six victories (49ers, Packers, Saints, Vikings, Seahawks). And that isn’t even including the division leader of the NFC East, MY Dallas Cowboys, who are sitting at 4-3 or last year’s NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams, who are in third place in the NFC West at 5-3.
To say that there is variance between the AFC and the NFC is an understatement.
Most-Productive Players from Week 8
Fantasy Sleepers Week 8: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Position||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
|Chase Edmonds (inj)||RB||RB54||3.3|
- For the second straight week, Ryan Tannehill finished as a QB1. Yes, you read that right! He seems to be the spark that the Titans offense did not have with Marcus Mariota under center. Too bad it took Tennessee a few years too long to see what some, including myself, already knew.
- While Mason Rudolph finished as the QB16, he managed to put up a respectable 17 fantasy points. Not great but he also did not bust. If you went with him, he didn’t lose your matchup for you.
- All of my sleeper RBs from last week were busts. The Lions could not get anything going on the ground against a Giants team one week removed from being lit up by Chase Edmonds. For the Lions, who tried trading for Devonta Freeman at the trade deadline, you can stick a fork in their season if they can’t find a semblance of a running game. Perhaps Tre Carson is the answer. Yuck!
- Chase Edmonds left Week 8 with a hamstring injury early in the game. Too bad we can’t predict injuries.
- While Kenny Stills was a tremendous letdown for may fantasy owners, Cole Beasley scored for the second straight game and finished as the WR26 while D.K. Metcalf finished as the WR19 with a pair of scores. Although Metcalf didn’t do much yardage-wise, you can tell the Seahawks utilized his size in the red area almost like a tight end with Will Dissly on IR, which helps his scoring upside.
Have some tough start/ sit decisions for Week 9? Don’t sweat! My co-host at the FF Faceoff Podcast, Mike Hauff, has you covered with his weekly Start’em/ Sit’em column featured exclusively at Gridiron Experts. You can read that here.
Week 9 QB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 29.3
While Jacoby Brisset laid an egg last week against Denver, I believe he is in a bounce-back spot on Sunday at the Steelers. And while Brissett hasn’t played his best football on the road this season, you can do a lot worse with four teams on a bye in Week 9. Although Brissett isn’t one of the most sound QBs in the league, he is ranked seventh in touchdowns passing, 10th in play-action completion percentage and seventh in deep-ball completion percentage. Brissett has also thrown for at least two scores in five of seven games played in 2019.
Though Brissett is getting a Pittsburgh defense surrendering the 23rd most fantasy points to QBs at a 15.8 FPPG rate — it’s not the greatest matchup for Brissett — I believe he will still be effective. In three of four home games this season, the Steelers have given up an 18.2 fantasy point floor to enemy signal callers while surrendering at least 19.1 fantasy points in each of their past three games overall. Brissett, who is also a threat on the ground — he is a top 11 QB in all of the top rushing categories for QBs — is a fringe QB1 for Week 9. I don’t think he will go off, but he also won’t lose your fantasy matchup for you either.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 19.0
Derek Carr hasn’t always been the most trustworthy fantasy QB, but in 2019, his second year in Jon Gruden’s system with a skeleton crew at receiver, he as played better than expected. In seven games played, Carr has had at least 17.2 fantasy points in five of them while surpassing the 20.1-point plateau in three of them, including in each of his past two games. And while his supporting cast isn’t the best, they are out-playing their namesake — Carr is ranked No. 8 in supporting cast efficiency at Player Profiler (+8.27). What’s more, Carr is making the best of what he has to work with as he is a top 10 QB in true completion percentage, play-action completion percentage, red zone completion percentage, pressured completion percentage, clean pocket completion percentage, true passer rating and adjusted yards per attempt.
One of the most efficient signal-callers in the league, Carr will enter a Sunday matchup at home against the Lions, who are surrendering the sixth-most fantasy points to QBs at a 21.6 FPPG rate while yielding 40.7 percent more fantasy points in the past three weeks than the 21.1 NFL average. The Lions have also gotten worse since the season opener, but especially in the past two games, giving up at least 32.6 fantasy points to Daniel Jones and Kirk Cousins. Carr, who has thrown for at least two touchdowns in four of his past five games, is in the back-end QB1 conversation for Week 9.
Week 9 RB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 26.1
While Frank Gore hasn’t been able to get much going in the past three games, he will get a Week 9 matchup with the Redskins that should allow him to get back on track. And while Devin Singletary is back as the lead dog in the Buffalo backfield from a fantasy football POV, Gore could see an increase in his workload as the Bills are expected to play from a positive game script, which favors Gore’s usage as a trustworthy closer. And although Singletary will be utilized as Buffalo’s all-purpose back, Gore managed to out-touch the rookie 9-to-7 despite the fact that Singletary scored and has a higher ceiling due to his presence in the passing game.
Getting a Redskins defense giving up the ninth-most fantasy points RBs at a 21.3 FPPG rate, Gore could produce double-digit fantasy points for the first time since Week 4. Not only is Washington allowing 32.7 percent more fantasy pints to enemy backs above the 24.9-point NFL average in the past five weeks, but they have also surrendered six TDs to RBs rushing and receiving in that time period. While Singletary has the higher ceiling this week, Gore should also bring a respectable floor due to the matchup. Gore is a midding Flex option with RB2 upside if he scores or goes for north of 100-yards rushing in Week 9.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 22.7
With Kenyan Drake no longer in the mix, Mark Walton, who was already trending in the right direction to over-take the Maimi backfield, is officially the defacto RB1 for the Dolphins. Sure, Kalen Ballage is still around to vulture touchdowns, a feat he’s accomplished in two of the past three games, but as far as usage, it is not even close. Walton has been dominating the touches, especially in the past two games while Drake was getting phased out. Since Week 7, Walton has received 29 touches to Ballage’s seven. What’s more, Walton has received at least 14 touches per game in that time span while garnering at least six targets in two of his past three games.
Although Walton isn’t doing much with his opportunities – he only has one game with double-digit fantasy points, which came back in Week 6 in which he finished with 12.6 points against the Redskins, he has a tremendous opportunity to ball out in his upcoming Sunday matchup with the Jets. Not only is the New York defense yielding the 12th most fantasy points to enemy backs at a 20.3 FPPG rate, but since they traded Leonard Williams to the Giants at the deadline, plus, the fact that C.J. Mosley will miss even more time due to injury, the Jets run defense will indeed regress moving forward. In their past three games, the Jets have surrendered at least 20.6 fantasy points to the opposition’s top-scoring fantasy running back including four total touchdowns, which bodes well for Walton’s ceiling.
With the Dolphins moving the ball better now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is back under center, Walton should have an easier time running the ball. He will also benefit from check down receptions as well as presumed garbage time production. In an extremely favorable matchup, Walton has high-end Flex appeal but could go-off for his best game of the year-to-date. My bold prediction on the FF Faceoff Podcast was that Walton will go for over 100 total yards and at least one touchdown in Week 9. With four teams on a bye, Walton is a must-start, something I never thought I would say.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 6.1
With James Conner sidelined through Thursday’s practice with a shoulder injury, plus, the fact that Benny Snell is dealing with a knee injury that could keep him out for a few weeks, Jaylen Samuels is in line for an expanded workload upon his return from his knee injury that kept him out since Week 6. If Conner plays, which right now, appears to be a long shot, Samuels would be set up for RB2 duties as well as some work in the passing game due to his versatility. However, if Conner is out, Samuels could return RB1 upside for Week 9.
While the matchup at home with the Colts isn’t a great one, I believe Samuels could still be effective due to his pass-catching ability, which raises his floor. The Colts are currently surrendering the 24th most fantasy points to RBs at a rate of 16.3 FPPG but could be exploited. While the Colts have given up fewer than 12.6 fantasy points to the opposition’s top-scoring RB in two of the past three games — both games were single-digit outputs — the Colts gave up double-digit points to both Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman in last week’s win over Denver. What’s more, in the first four games of the season, the Colts gave up at least 12.8 points to the opposition’s lead back, which shows that they are bendable. While I like Samuels more if Conner is out, I do think he could be a low-end Flex option as the change of pace back as he’s accumulated 12 targets, 11 receptions and 68 yards combined as a receiver in the past two games he played.
Week 9 WR Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 24.1
Much like the rest of the Jets, Robby Anderson has been one of the most disappointing fantasy assets of 2019. Out of seven games played, Anderson accumulated double-0digit fantasy points twice and hasn’t accomplished that feat since Week 6. And it’s not like he isn’t getting the targets, as he’s received at least six targets in five of seven games played. He just isn’t doing much with them. While some of his struggles are on him, you can put his early mishaps on the fact that Sam Darnold was out earlier in the year with mono and Luke Falk just wasn’t cutting it.
In his upcoming matchup with a Dolphins defense yielding the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs at a 27.6 FPPG pace, Anderson should have one of his most productive outings of the year. Not only has Anderson produced against Miami in the past — in six career games against the Dolphins, Anderson has accumulated a 21/318/3 stat line and scored in 30-of-6 contests — but the Dolphins have given up at least 19.3 fantasy points to the opposition’s top-scoring fantasy wideout in each of the past three games. If there is ever a game to use Anderson in, it is this one. He has WR2 upside for Week 9 with a respectable double-digit PPR point floor.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 14.0
While Danny Amendola disappeared for a few games since popping off in the season opener for 23.4 fantasy points, he has come back alive in recent weeks. In the past two games, Amendola has been targeted at least eight times, caught at least eight passes for 95 yards and finished with at least 17.5 PPR points. With Kerryon Johnson out, the Lions will struggle to run the football which means they will lean on the short and intermediate passing game to maneuver the ball downfield, which favors Amendola, one of the best slot receivers in the game.
Now, Amendola will get a Raiders defense surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs at a 27.6 FPPG rate and should once again return a high floor for his fantasy owners. Not only are the Raiders giving up 22.6 percent more fantasy points to enemy WRs above the 33.4-point NFL average in the past three weeks, but they have also surrendered at least 10.9 fantasy points to 12 different wideouts in seven games this season. View Amendola as a middling WR3 with WR2 upside if he scores or goes over 100 yards receiving in Week 9.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 9.1
Since Dede Westbrook is dealing with a shoulder injury for the past two weeks and was forced out of last week’s matchup as a result — he’s also been limited in practice this week — it is hard to imagine that he won’t be limited in some capacity if he is ultimately active in Sunday’s London encounter with the Texans, which means Chris Conley could be in line for his third consecutive productive outing. While Conley was productive in the first two games of the year, he disappeared for four games until showing life in Week 7 against the Bengals in which he finished with 11.3 fantasy points then blowing up last week against the Jets for 2013. In those two most recent matchups, Conley has combined for 15 targets, seven receptions, 186 yards, and a TD.
Now with Westbrook likely out or limited, plus, a terrific matchup against a Texans defense surrendering the second-most fantasy points to WRs at a 29.1 FPPG rate, Conley could ball-out again. Not only are the Texans giving up 34.4 percent more fantasy points above the 33.4-point NFL average in the past three weeks, but they have allowed five different receivers to accumulate at least 18.1 fantasy points against them in that timespan. Conley is in the fringe WR2 conversation for Week 9 if Westbrook sits, but would be downgraded to the WR3/ Flex tier if he plays without limitations, which is unlikely.
Week 9 TE Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 21.8
Although both Darren Fells and Jordan Akins are both involved in the Houston passing attack, the former is the one you should trust for fantasy despite the fact that they eat into each other’s ceiling. In fact, should one succumb to injury, the other could emerge as a slam-dunk top 20 fantasy tight end. And while Fells is only out-targeting Akins 28-to-25 on the season, he is vastly out-producing him from a fantasy football perspective. Fells is the PPR TE8 on a 23/244/5 stat line while Akins is the TE18 on a 17/224/2 line. What’s more, while Fells has scored a four TDs in his past four games — he scored two back in Week 5 and another two last week — Akins has failed to find the end zone since Week 3 in which he scored both of his touchdowns against the Chargers.
Entering his London matchup with the Jaguars, Fells, whose scored at least 12.6 fantasy points in four of his past six games and three times in his past four, should once again be effective. Not only will he get a Jacksonville defense surrendering the 12th most fantasy points to TEs at a 7.9 FPPG pace, but they’ve given up at least 12.7 fantasy points to the top-scoring enemy TE in two of their past three contests including three TDs in that time span and four scores in their past five games. While Fells is only ranked No. 18 in targets (28), he is making the most of his opportunity as he is currently ranked No. 11 (23) in receptions and No. 1 in red area receptions (7) with an 82.1 percent catch-rate, which ranks him fifth in that category. Fells, who has seen at least six targets in two of his past three games, is not only emerging as a legit weapon in Deshaun Watson’s passing attack, but he is also morphing into a quality fantasy option as well. Fells is a high-end TE2 for Week 9 wit TE1 upside if he scores.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 18.9
While Jason Witten only scored double-digit fantasy points three times this season and only once since Week 2, I believe he will get back on track on Monday Night against the Giants. Sure, on paper, the Giants, who are vastly improved against the tight end than in years past, are only yielding the fifth-fewest fantasy points to TEs at a 4.9 FPPG pace this season, but as I said when I wrote up Witten for my Week 1 article, he is a Giant-slayer.
In his career, Witten has accumulated a 164/1,664/16 stat line against New York in 32 games including a 3/15/1 line back in this year’s season opener in which he finished with 10.5 fantasy points. He’s also scored in each of the past three times he’s faced the Giants dating back to before his retirement. While the Giants have failed to allow an enemy tight end to score double-digit fantasy points against them since both Witten and Blake Jarwin did it in the season opener, I believe the impending Hall of Fame TE will once again be a thorn in the Giants’ side. Witten, who has seen at least four targets in every game this season and is the No. 8 TE in receptions and the No. 4 TE in red zone receptions, is a high-end TE2 with TE1 upside if he scores for Week 9.