We're onto week nine and a tough bye week for many fantasy owners. Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, and Tennessee teams are all on vacation, so you'll have to plan accordingly. The good news is there should be a number of good players on the waiver wire as teams adjust to their bye.
Before we get into the meat of the article, let's do a quick accountability check and see how we fared in our week eight Sit 'Em/Start 'Em predictions. Overall, we did pretty well forecasting last week's stars and busts. We correctly predicted that 60 percent of the 23 players listed would perform as they did.
For example, Philadelphia's defense, which had been one of the highest scoring defenses prior to week eight, only put up two fantasy points. We suggested that fantasy owners should sit the Eagles. Carson Palmer also put up a good day, racking up 329 yards and two touchdowns. That was good enough for 23.97 fantasy points. We suggested that fantasy owners start Palmer. And finally, Mark Ingram came through with 29.5 points against a weak Carolina front, as we expected.
However, there were some misses. We suggested that fantasy owners sit Mohamed Sanu and Ben Roethlisberger. Ouch! That hurt. Hopefully you started players ahead of them who also put up good numbers. Who would have thought Big Ben would put up historic numbers after he only had one 20-point game prior to week eight? We had also predicted the Ravens' defense would have been tougher on the Bengals' depleted offensive skills weapons, but Sanu still racked up 25.2 points. So, just to be safe this week...we did not include Ben Roethlisberger or Mohamed Sanu on this list!
20 Dallas Cowboys Defense – SIT
Currently, the Cowboys' defense ranks ninth in opponents points per game and 14th in total defense. Not stellar, but definitely noteworthy considering how critics originally projected them to fair much worse. If you remember, "experts" projected opponents to rip this unit to shreds. The only problem with the Cowboys' defense is that it hasn't been all that great in fantasy land, and they face the Cardinals who have allowed the fourth fewest points to defenses.
19 Minnesota Vikings Defense – START
Ranked ninth on Yahoo's Top 20 defenses, the Vikings' put on a nice show last week, scoring 21 fantasy points against the Buccaneers. Up until then, Tampa Bay had been ranked in the top five in fantasy points allowed to defenses. The Vikings' should receive another boost this week when they face the Redskins. Washington has surrendered the sixth most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
18 Jared Cook – TE, St. Louis Rams – SIT
Even with the Rams' number one wide out, Brian Quick, injured, it's hard to predict whether Cook will see an uptick in targets. This season the targets, receptions and points have not been there for him. Cook has also failed to score a touchdown, and Austin Davis has only targeted the tight end a total of six times the past two weeks. On the semi-bright side, the 49ers have allowed an average of 6.7 points per game to tight ends.
17 Larry Donnell – TE, New York Giants – START
The Colts were absolutely burned last week by Heath Miller, who went off for 112 receiving yards and one touchdown on seven receptions. The Colts' defense likely won't collapse like that again, however, they have been surrendering the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends, which included a 14-point showing from Titans' tight end Delanie Walker and a 7 point performance from Ravens' tight end Owen Daniels a few weeks ago.
16 Torrey Smith– WR, Baltimore Ravens – SIT
What has happened to Torrey Smith? Just a year ago, he finished the season with 1,128 receiving yards and was averaging four receptions with 70 yards per game. This year he has managed a mere 308 yards on 18 receptions and is averaging half of his receptions and yards per game totals as last season.
This week's matchup against the Steelers is looking especially troublesome. In three career meetings with Pittsburgh, Smith has caught only nine balls for 139 yards and one touchdown.
15 DeAndre Hopkins – WR, Houston Texans – START
Currently ranked 18th out of 75 receivers on Yahoo!, Hopkins is a solid start this week against a Philadelphia team that ranks third in points allowed to receivers. In fact, just last week, the Eagles' defense allowed Cardinals' receiver John Brown to have a breakout game (17 points) and Larry Fitzgerald, who was falling into WR3 range, to have a bounce-back performance (22 points). In the past two weeks, Hopkins has also seen a significant increase in targets and has caught 67.9 percent of the passes thrown his way.
14 Percy Harvin – WR, New York Jets – SIT
Originally I had Eric Decker placed in this slot, but I figured some one has to get some targets in this Jets' offense, and that person is likely to be Decker. Last week the Jets tried to work Harvin into their game plan, but that backfired. Instead Decker totaled seven receptions to Harvin's three. With uncertainty and inconsistency at quarterback, and the fact the Chiefs' own the leagues' best pass defense, sitting Harvin is a safe bet.
13 Kelvin Benjamin – WR, Carolina Panthers – START
Benjamin has slowly worked his way up the Yahoo! leaderboard and for good reason. He's a beastly talent. He now has five touchdowns and is on pace for 76 catches, 1142 yards and 10 touchdowns. His performance last week against Richard Sherman showed that Benjamin has the ability to actually top those statistical predictions. This week he has an easy matchup against a New Orleans' defense that has yielded the fourth most fantasy points to receivers.
12 Vincent Jackson – WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – SIT
Fantasy owners were probably on the edge of their seats at the trade deadline hoping Jackson would somehow make his way out of Florida and into the arms of a more capable offense. However, that did not happen, and those owners face the prospect of Jackson working with inconsistent quarterbacks from here on out. Worse, this week he faces a Cleveland secondary that has surrendered only seven touchdowns all year to receivers.
11 Julian Edelman – WR, New England Patriots – START
I'm calling this a bounce back week for Edelman, a player who has been somewhat forgotten about over the past couple of weeks because the Patriots have gone vertical. It may be much tougher for the Patriots to stretch the field against a Broncos' defense that has allowed just 5.8 yards per pass attempt this season. That ranks second in the league. Denver also ranks first in opponent yards per play. They condense the field, which may play right into Edelman's hands (pun intended), especially if the Broncos double cover Gronkowski all night.
10 Chris Ivory – RB, New York Jets – SIT
Ivory has been the Jets' lead back, averaging around 10 points a game as the 10th ranked running back on Yahoo!. However, the matchup against the Chiefs will be tough. On average, Kansas City has only surrendered 13.46 fantasy points per game to running backs. And with the Jets likely playing from behind, you have to wonder how much they'll use Ivory.
9 Ronnie Hillman – RB, Denver Broncos – START
Let's face it, Hillman is the Broncos' main running back. Monte Ball shouldn't going get his job back, and Juwan Thompson is only a touchdown vulture. Hillman has exploded in recent weeks, and he faces a vulnerable Patriots' defensive front, which has yielded the fifth most fantasy points to opposing running backs. What kind of damage has Hillman done recently? He's posted 283 yards on 58 carries and scored twice since starting in place of Ball.
8 Jonas Gray – RB, New England Patriots – SIT
I think this is more of a fair-warning to fantasy owners than anything. Owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Gray was a popular pick up in the weeks after starter Steven Ridley went down for the season. I believe most are smart enough to hold off on using Gray against the Broncos, but for those who are thinking of using him, don't be fooled into believing the Patriots will run the football because it might be a close game. Denvers' rush defense ranks number one overall. Are you scared away yet?
7 Mark Ingram – RB, New Orleans Saints – START
Once again, Ingram is featured in this column because this matchup is looking even juicier than the one he had last week against Green Bay. Carolina is giving up an average of 22.46 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. That's good enough to be ranked fourth worst. Ingram, clearly the Saints' lead back with Thomas out, carried the rock 24 times for 172 yards and one touchdown last Sunday.
6 Darren McFadden – RB, Oakland Raiders – SIT
The Raiders have been providing McFadden a healthy amount of snaps each week, which has resulted in an average of 10.8 fantasy points per game. However, the Seahawks have surrendered only 89.6 yards per game this season, which ranks them sixth best in the league, and they'll also be at home. Like always, the Raiders will be scrambling to come back in games, so there is risk Carr will distribute the ball to his receivers.
5 Ahmad Bradshaw – RB, Indianapolis Colts – START
The revived Bradshaw is on pace for a remarkable 1,270 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. Let me say that again: 16 touchdowns. In short, fire him up this week against a New York Giants' defense that has given up the second most points to running backs. The Giants are currently ranked 22nd in stopping the run. More importantly, the Giants' allow opposing rushers to reach the end zone regularly and they allow 4.4 yards per carry.
4 Michael Vick – QB, New York Jets – SIT
"Maybe I didn't prepare or I wasn't prepared, but I'll tell you what, it won't happen again," Vick said after he struggled against the Chargers back on October 5th. Fast forward three games and Vick looks just as poor, although better than Geno Smith, if that says anything. In last week's game against Buffalo, Vick replaced Smith and threw for a measly 153 yards on 36 attempts. He also tossed an interception, was sacked four times and lost four fumbles. This week he goes against a Kansas City defense that has allowed the sixth fewest points to the quarterback position.
3 Alex Smith – QB, Kansas City Chiefs – START
For those who suffered through that dreadful week four bye, you're probably sitting pretty while your fellow week nine opponents struggle through a similar week. Aaron Rodgers, Mathew Stafford, Jay Culter, and Matt Ryan are all on vacation this week, which means you might be looking for a fill-in quarterback. Alex Smith is owned in only 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues, yet he's averaging at least 11.2 points per game. That's not world-beating, but he's also had three weeks where he's posted 14 points or more. Even better news? He faces the lowly Jets, who surrender the second most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
2 Austin Davis – QB, St. Louis Rams – SIT
Davis has been wildly inconsistent all season, posting 20-plus point weeks on only two occasions. He's posted four games of eight points or less. One of those letdowns actually came against the 49ers three weeks ago when he completed 21 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown and interception. Davis' offense is down emerging star wide out Brian Quick for the season, and the 49ers surrender the twelfth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. It's not a good matchup for Davis.
1 Derek Carr – QB, Oakland Raiders – START
You win your league by taking some risks, so let's highlight Derek Carr against the Seahawks' secondary. Carr has easily been the best rookie quarterback of 2014. Bortles, Bridgewater and even Manziel have, for some reason, stolen the spotlight, but the man overshadowed more by the Raiders' inept team than the "black hole" he plays in has quietly produced a nice season. In his last three games, Carr has thrown five touchdowns to one interception, and he has posted an 83.51 Pro Football Focus passer rating. According to Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated this rating, "is comparable to the rookie ratings of Mike Glennon in 2013, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck in 2012."
Carr should play from behind this week, which will provide him with ample opportunities to throw against a Seahawks' secondary that has surprisingly regressed a bit since last season. Seattle's defense has surrendered five, 14-plus point weeks to quarterbacks, and Carr already has four such weeks against the Jets, Houston, San Diego, and Cleveland. Also, in the final preseason game of the year, playing against the Seattle first-team defense, Carr threw an impressive four TDs. Give him a shot this week.