It’s still BYEWEEK SZN – a critical time for average and below-average teams to sneak up on an unsuspecting juggernaut team weakened by a star player on bye. If you’re one of those middling teams, it’s time to take a few chances in hopes that one of these unknown guys will blow up for a week and put you back in the race.
As always, the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup.
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots. The goal is to avoid being the person tweeting screenshots of a 30-point performance sitting on their bench.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: Players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo @ New York Jets (Thursday): This makes three straight Rackable weeks for Taylor, who has generated a respectable 20 points per game in his previous two and now gets new toy Kelvin Benjamin on the outside. There are rumors the Carolina import is overweight and, well, he probably wishes this photo had a few filters applied before it hit the internet streets. Fat or not, Benjamin presents an oversized target that even little Tyrod Taylor can see in the red zone. The trade is a boon for Taylor owners, undoubtedly.
Jay Cutler, Miami vs. Oakland: There are unsubstantiated rumors swirling that Matt Moore posted last week’s Rest write-up on him in his locker as personal motivation. That motivation netted him three fantasy points and a head coach so angry he shipped out Miami’s best offensive player in retribution. Now Cutler is back and Oakland’s league-worst pass defense is ripe for Smokin’ Jay to reassert himself into the picture. Poor Matt Moore.
Derek Carr, Oakland @ Miami: It’s a sad state of affairs in Oakland when Derek Carr is the 18th-best fantasy quarterback and he’s a potential Rest during BYEWEEK SZN. Nonetheless, like Moore on the opposite sideline, Carr’s matchup this week is with a Miami secondary that has been so bad head coach Adam Gase may consider releasing one of its better members. That’ll show everybody.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore @ Tennessee: Backfield-mate Alex Collins has slowly but surely eaten into Allen’s touches and, quite frankly, been the better player so far this season. But Allen is the pass-catching back and, while the Tennessee run defense isn’t easily exploited, they rank in the bottom three against backfield receiving threats. If you own Allen, then this may be the last week he’s a viable Rack.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina vs. Atlanta: McCaffrey was an easy Rack recommendation last week and now gets the Falcons’ bottom-four ranked defense. Also, given that he’s more receiver than running back, the Benjamin trade may free him up for a few more targets per game.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay @ New Orleans: Martin has been (rightfully) picked on here in Flex On ‘Em since returning from suspension, but he gets the Saints’ 29th-ranked run defense in Week 9. At over 18 opportunities per game, Martin has a feature back role despite a lack of feature back ability. This week, though, the opportunities outweigh the skill set. In this matchup and against bad defenses in the future, he’s Rackable with the hope that he’ll literally stumble into a touchdown or two.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati @ Jacksonville: Last week, the Jaguars made an attempt to align its incongruous defense (first against the pass, last against the run) by trading with Buffalo for embattled DT Marcell Dareus; who has got to be thrilled to end up in the land of sailor hats and long, flat roads. While I doubt the trade does much for Jacksonville in the long run, I’m positive that his presence will not make such an immediate monumental difference that I’d have reservations Racking Mixon and his 14+ touches a game. The Bengals would be crazy to expect turnover machine Andy Dalton to throw on that secondary, so they’ll go in with a focus on running the ball.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants vs. Los Angeles Rams: As surprising as it is to see Jared Goff playing well, and the Rams overall playing well, it’s equally surprising to find that their run defense is the biggest team weakness. While the 17th-ranked unit isn’t Jacksonville-bad, their pass defense is right up there with the Jaguars in efficiency and thereby shifts their opponents’ game plans to the ground. I just don’t see Ben McAdoo throwing with Eli Manning and whoever they plucked off the Jersey Shore to play receiver this week instead of attacking that weakness. Darkwa is (I guess) the hottest back in New Jersey, so he’s the one to ride.
Devin Funchess, Carolina @ Tampa Bay: Have you heard the Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin? For some reason, in a sea of former teammates expressing shock and sadness on the Twitter machine, Funchess was conspicuously absent. Is it because doesn’t have Twitter? Maybe. Or is it that he was dancing in the streets because that the Panthers have tagged him as their power forward receiver going forward? Far more likely. Expect double digit targets and the fantasy points to follow.
Brandon Coleman, New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay: Coleman leads all New Orleans wide receivers in snaps and has a great matchup on deck with the Bucs’ 31st-ranked pass defense. He sees fewer than three targets a game, but I think this is one of those weeks where he puts a long one in the paint. Folks, we’re here to take chances.
Jarvis Landry, Miami vs. Oakland: Unlike Jay Ajayi, Adam Gase was unable to make an example out of Landry by shipping him to a moribund team like the Patriots or Eagles. So now Landry gets to suit up in Dolphin turquoise and orange, while knowing full well everyone around him wishes he wasn’t. He’s like your girlfriend’s good-for-nothing brother on your softball team that nobody on the team likes, but he’s an absolute baller with a rocket arm and you need a third baseman, so you grit your teeth and bear it. Oakland’s secondary plays the role of the church team in your league that sucks but plays together so they can pray together. If Landry can keep his attitude in check, then he’s going to be a productive guy this week.
Jaron Brown, Arizona @ San Francisco: Similar to Brandon Coleman, Brown is a touchdown-dependent deep threat lottery-ticket play. Luckily for desperate owners this week, the Cardinals stay on the West coast for a matchup with the 49ers, who are a bottom-ten defense against deep passes and bottom-five pass defense overall. Drew Stanton starts in place of Carson Palmer, but an Adrian Petersen-led rushing attack should keep that San Francisco defense as confused as ever.
Dez Bryant, Dallas vs. Kansas City: Bryant’s feature in Flex On ‘Em is more of a slap on the wrist for the former top-10 fantasy player turned fantasy enigma. He’s still an every week Rack despite becoming more of a redzone-dependent player over his last 20 or so games. As I write this sentence, Zeke Elliott is suspended and that should equate to the Cowboys shifting slightly more into pass mode, but check back by the end of the article to see if the suspension still holds. By the way, is this what the legal system is doing instead of prosecuting sexual assault charges and corporate malfeasance? It’s so confusing. If Elliott were a suspended accountant during tax season, would he be having this back-and-forth of whether or not his firm will let him do his job? Or would he just hit ‘em with the shrug and chill out for six weeks in Maui? This is definitive proof, by the way, that being a professional athlete is the best job on the planet. In what other profession are you forced to take a vacation and sue your employer because of it?
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati @ Jacksonville: I touched on this a little bit in the Joe Mixon section, but since this is Jacksonville we’re talking about, a team so synonymous with defensive failure it has let Mike D’Antoni off the hook, it’s important to reiterate: do not throw on this Jaguars team. Especially if you’re Andy Dalton, whose awareness levels are so low he once hit the highway, truck bed full of luggage and the tailgate down. “But that was two years ago!” you say. People don’t forget, Andy.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee vs. Baltimore: When healthy, the pride of Hawaii has been a near-every-week Rack but, despite another week removed from injury, Mariota’s matchup with Baltimore’s 2nd-ranked pass defense is one to avoid. If you have another option and you’re desperate for a win, then take a shot with someone capable of a higher ceiling this week.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay vs. Detroit: It is going to be so weird seeing a Green Bay team quarterbacked by someone other than Aaron Rodgers. Typically, you’d expect a running back like Montgomery to have his value skyrocket in this circumstance. But another Aaron, Jones that is, had a great October and looks to be the future of the Packer run game. Montgomery will still get looks as a gadgety-type player, and even a few carries here and there, but Jones is the back you want going forward. Regardless of the opportunities, Detroit’s run defense ranks comfortably in the top 5 and won’t be stretching itself thin to contain Scott Tolzien Brett Hundley/Colin Kaepernick.
DeMarco Murray, Tennesee vs. Baltimore: I salute Murray’s outstanding service to the League and his teams; he’s a great American. Now he needs to get the hell out of the way and let Derrick Henry do his job. (I will give you two pieces of leftover Halloween candy if you @ me the movie I just semi-quoted.) The Ravens’ run defense isn’t quite as good as their pass defense efficiency, but they’re not weak enough to expect two backs to have solid fantasy days – and you know all my money is on Henry.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets vs. Buffalo (Thursday): The loss of Marcell Dareus wasn’t a loss at all for the top-10 Buffalo run defense squad. Really, the only success opposing running backs are having is on short routes against the Bills’ unathletic group of linebackers (rookie Matt Milano aside). Forte is the better back in space, but I wouldn’t Rack him, either. This one is going to be on McCown.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis @ Cincinnati: Copy/paste from last week with changes noted: Gore is a ship whose old, coal-powered engine is plodding so slowly and heavily that it’s just sinking slowly into the ocean deep, while head coach Chuck Pagano refuses to fire up the sleek, new turbo-charged electric engine (Marlon Mack) that could save the entire crew. Cincinnati’s Houston’s 6 5th-ranked run defense is far from a lifeboat at this stage. Here’s hoping that, unlike Jack, Mack climbs up onto the door first and gets the hell out of the water and onto the field more.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati: I didn’t pick on Hurns last week and, honestly, Flex On ‘Em felt a little strange because of it. Don’t fret, he’s back in a feature Rest role this week with a matchup against Cincinnati’s above average pass defense and excellent track record against WR1s (4th-best). With both teams’ strong defenses and a Bortles/Dalton quarterback “showdown”, this game is destined to have more defensive touchdowns than offensive ones.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants vs. Los Angeles Rams: Shepard returns from a month-long absence just in time to square up with the Rams’ top-3 secondary. He’ll get a few opportunities, but that ankle isn’t 100% and the matchup has little shine. I’d be sheepish to guide him anywhere but your bench.
Jamison Crowder, Washington @ Seattle: The Seahawks are correcting their minor defensive flaws as the season goes along and have risen back into the top ten in overall defensive efficiency. Crowder’s 120+ yard effort against the Cowboys aside, he hasn’t been reliable enough to consider Racking against a matchup like this. Teammate Josh Doctson is far more likely cash in on Seattle’s propensity for letting secondary receivers beat them.
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta @ Carolina: The shadow of Julio Jones’s production has been so widely cast that Sanu’s sporadic fantasy contributions have gone largely unnoticed in the first half of the season. He’s an unspectacular play that is unlikely to win you games outright, but good enough to ensure you’re not going to end up with a gaping hole in your roster. He’s a sneaky play in good matchups, but Week 9 puts him in Carolina against a top-6 pass defense.
Eric Decker, Tennessee vs. Baltimore: Decker chose to go with the shirt on for his Moana’s dad(?) Halloween costume and that is too weak for any good fantasy squad’s lineup — particularly going into a matchup with that Ravens secondary. Now they already know you’re shook.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati @ Jacksonville: I am beating this matchup to death, but seriously, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ secondary is unbelievable. Who would’ve thought that if you sink approximately 25 top 5 picks into a defense, then it would eventually develop into something formidable? Green has been held to fewer than 75 yards in five of seven games this year and fewer than 50 in his last two. Don’t expect him to explode against what I am now calling the best secondary of all time*.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (1-2)
Buffalo -3 @ New York Jets
Miami +3 vs. Oakland
Green Bay +2.5 vs. Detroit
Have a good weekend, everybody.
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM