The Fantasy Fool: Week 9 starters and benchwarmers
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Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Melvin Gordon, or to bench Buck Allen and Albert Wilson? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 9 of the 2016 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys at Browns. Perhaps my enthusiasm for the budding superstar is driven by my need to start him in both leagues. But I grabbed Prescott off the waiver wire specifically for this heavy bye week, when he’ll be facing one of the league’s worst pass defenses. No team has surrendered more than Cleveland’s 19 TD passes. With Dez Bryant back near full speed, there’s no slowing down this Dak Attack. Then again, if ever there was a “trap” game, this is it.
Terrance West, RB, Ravens vs. Steelers. The last time we saw West, prior to the bye, the Jets stuffed him. He’ll exact his revenge on the Steelers, who have been coughing up fantasy points by the truckload to opposing rushers. West still has no competition for carries in the Ravens backfield.
Tim Hightower, RB, Saints at 49ers. Mark Ingram is quickly losing his grip on the starting job, in large part because he keeps losing his grip on the football. Enter Hightower, who notched the Saints’ first 100-yard rushing game of the season in Week 8. Even if he shares carries with Ingram, Hightower should have another nice outing against the NFL’s rushing doormats.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns vs. Cowboys. Dallas lost two of its best defensive backs to injury in Week 8, so the Browns will face a unit in some disarray. Meanwhile, Corey Coleman is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing six games with a broken hand. His presence will take some of the attention off of Pryor, who should again be the most targeted receiver on the field.
Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens vs. Steelers. These matchups are traditionally low-scoring affairs, but Pittsburgh’s defenders aren’t what they once were. With Steve Smith likely out again, Wallace will be Joe Flacco’s go-to receiver against a secondary that coughs up plenty of yards, though they get tougher near the goal line.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Philip Rivers, Cam Newton; RBs Jay Ajayi, Jonathan Stewart, Devontae Booker, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Charcandrick West; WRs Jarvis Landry, Terrance Williams, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Kelvin Benjamin, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks.
Roll ‘em back
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders vs. Broncos. I hope you rolled with Carr last week, and because Sunday night’s opponent is arguably the league’s stingiest. While Amari Cooper is too dangerous to bench, his compatriots shouldn’t be trusted in this matchup.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams vs. Panthers. Okay, we both know you have to start him, but you’re going to regret it. Gurley has been a huge disappointment to his owners this season, and that’s likely to continue against a stout Carolina run defense that just limited David Johnson to 24 yards on the ground last week. Gurley isn’t used enough as a pass-catcher to make up the difference, like Johnson did.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles at Giants. Mathews has effectively surrendered his starting gig to Darren Sproles, even though his coach won’t admit it. The Giants have given up just five rushing scores to date, and that’s where Mathews makes his money.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks vs. Bills. Seattle’s passing attack is still off-kilter, as evidenced by their failure to score against the lowly Saints last week. Buffalo’s pass defense is on a higher plane, which means it could be another long day for Baldwin and his fellow receivers. Sure, Tom Brady whooped them last week; but Russell Wilson isn’t playing anywhere near Brady’s level.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars at Chiefs. Like his quarterback, Hurns has been up and down all season. Mostly down. He faces a tough test at rowdy Arrowhead Stadium against a solid Chiefs secondary. Aside from garbage time last weekend when the Titans defense was playing prevent, Bortles and the Jags’ passing game have been fairly anemic. Look for more of the same on Sunday.
More thumbs down: QBs Russell Wilson, Matt Stafford, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick; RBs T.J. Yeldon, Jerick McKinnon, Isaiah Crowell; WRs Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Kendall Wright, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Sammy Coates.
TAKING A FLIER
Tavon Austin, WR, Rams vs. Panthers. Actually, Austin is a proxy for “some Rams wideout,” because one of them is going to soar against the sorry Panthers secondary. Case Keenum has been passing up a storm – sometimes effectively, sometimes not – and Austin is his most reliable option. But Brian Quick and Kenny Britt have had their days, too. Bottom line: If you’re desperate for a wideout with a high ceiling this week, consider one of the Rams.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … throws in the towel at midseason because your team sucks. Failing to set your lineup or, worse, agreeing to a lop-sided trade to help a friend undermines the integrity of the game. And if we can’t maintain integrity in our fake sport, the terrorists have surely won.
Ladd Biro is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter(@ladd_biro).