STEADY STARTERS VS. BIG-PLAY PERFORMERS
With Week 9 upon us, Fantasy rosters are littered with injuries to championship makers like Reggie Wayne, Randall Cobb and Julio Jones, as well as disappointing but also injured running backs like Arian Foster, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, Stephen Jackson and DeMarco Murray. When you combine them with the six teams on bye (Denver/Detroit/Giants/Arizona/SF 49er's/Jags), which have several Top 25 receivers or backs among them, then Fantasy owners are left with slim pickings on the waiver wire and some tough decisions about who to start and who to sit. Weeks like this stretch your roster depth and require the deepest of dives into the waiver wire to find Fantasy contributors to get you through.
Owners can choose to start Week 8 big play boomers like Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Marvin Jones or Golden Tate, or they can go with mainstays that don't exactly play major roles in their teams offensive schemes except when it counts, specifically, in the red zone. They have the potential to score TDs, which can often make or break a day for Fantasy owners. Example of players with this potential are Joseph Fauria of Detroit (8 receptions, 5 TDs) and Mike Tolbert of Carolina (252 total yards from scrimmage, 5 TDs). The flipside to this kind of player is that they can just as easily lay a big fat goose egg.
Then there is the safe, conservative but most importantly, consistent player. This type of player make catches every week and racks up yardage from scrimmage but doesn’t normally score a lot of touchdowns, so they rarely have that flashy 25-plus point week. In the past, this group has included players like Wes Welker, Jason Witten, Andre Johnson (48 catches 584 yards, zero TDs) and Torrey Smith.
This week, Chris Mitchell and Brandon C. Williams debate which type of player is better when it comes to those tough start ‘em or sit ‘em decisions – the go big or go home player versus the steady as she goes player.
POINT - Brandon C. Williams
Fantasy football, like life, is a gamble. There are flashpoints in which the odds appear stacked against us; Murphy’s Law is Stalin-like and Uncle Momentum has chosen not to claim you as a member of the family.
Week 9 has the earmarks of a disaster for some owners, as they head into the week without the likes of Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, Colin Kaepernick, Victor Cruz, Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Blackmon. Without the firepower that has carried them thus far, an owner must feel like they’re trapped in a steel cage with Brock Lesnar armed with nothing but a water pistol.
So, yes, the odds are stacked. So what? Unlike Chris Mitchell’s Fox News-like approach to being conservative, I suggest you throw all caution in the wind and go for the boom or bust plays that are thrust into the Fantasy spotlight this week. In fact, I’ve come armed with a starting lineup of high-risk, high-reward players that I bet would produce more than you’d expect.
The parachute’s tossed. Let’s jump into the fire....
QB: Case Keenum, Texans: At least twenty QBs are ahead of Keenum in this week’s projections, yet keep in mind he put up 271 yards against the Chiefs top-ranked defense before the bye. Sure, he goes against the Colts and their seventh-ranked pass defense, but if Arian Foster doesn’t play, a pass-happy style works in Keenum’s favor. He put up 15.8 Fantasy points against KC, and -- especially if this becomes a game where Houston has to play catch-up -- I feel he’s a risky, yet intriguing play that could give you 22-25 points.
RB: Fozzy Whitaker, Browns: Pat Mayo gets credit for gambling on Whitaker last week; I say he’s a repeat play with better numbers. Having covered him when he played high school ball in Pearland (Texas) and watching him at Texas, I know what he’s capable of. His value rises in PPR leagues; Whitaker has been targeted seven times in two games, catching four with a touchdown to boot. The abundance of touches may not be there, yet Whitaker is one of those players who can turn 2-3 chances into double-digit Fantasy points. Grab him.
WR: Rod Streater, Raiders: Over the last five weeks, the Eagles 31st-ranked pass defense has given up the most Fantasy points per game to wideouts, therefore, despite the fact Denaris Moore has established himself as Terrelle Pryor’s go-to man, Streater screams must-play. An afterthought for much of October, Streater has been targeted 14 times over the last two weeks, a sign that a huge afternoon could be in store for him.
TE: Andrew Quarless, Packers: Regarded as a blocking TE to some, Quarless was targeted just twice last week. The Bears have struggled against good tight ends, giving up the fourth most Fantasy PPG to them over the last five weeks. Add the fact that Quarless is playing on Monday night, and you get a player who will at least triple his targets, which translates to potential gold. This may be the last week Quarless comes cheap, so take a swan dive into the waiver wire heap and know that Quarless will help you and your Fantasy team at a needed time.
Flex: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Colts: DH-B, BAY-BEE! The Texans lead the league in pass defense, yet Heyward-Bey has a golden opportunity to emerge as a Fantasy stud this week. Reggie Wayne’s replacement has the type of deep speed that troubles a Houston secondary, which also ranks last in the league with three interceptions. DH-B also draws erratic Texans CB Kareem Jackson, who has the propensity to get scorched by burners like Heyward-Bey. Best believe QB Andrew Luck knows that as well.
Go well, my Fantasy children. Run into the wind fearlessly with this advance, and also with the knowledge that risk is nothing but a board game by Parker Brothers.
COUNTERPOINT - Chris Mitchell
I am a bit of a schizophrenic when it comes to risk and reward versus safe and reliable. I love the rewards and hate the risk, I love the reliable but I hate disappointing production. This makes me rare, right? Of course it doesn't. The river boat gambler drinks liquor by the gallon and plays craps and blackjack until the sun rises and it’s all peaches and cream... until the morning hangover and the empty wallet. If you are in a situation in Week 9 in which injuries and bye weeks have decimated your chances, then take the boom or bust approach this week and ignore my advice here. If you’re the 16 point underdog to the high-flying St. Louis “Fastest Show on Turf” Rams, then go for the potential three touchdown play and forget the 65 yards, six catches and zero scores option. Desperate times demand desperate measures. But if you are in a close, hard fought matchup in Week 9, then you have to go with the steady as you go path and seek out a hard fought slop through the mud nail biter; here is why:
There are a lot of mediocre matchups this week. Miami vs. Cincinnati, Baltimore at Cleveland, Tennessee at St Louis, Atlanta at Carolina, Seattle at Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh at New England and even Indy vs. Houston on Sunday night. None of these games scream BIG TIME SCORING, HIGH-FLYING YARDAGE. The odds are that those boom or bust plays you are considering are going to turn into busts. If the matchups were a bit looser, if players like Kenny Stills or Lance Moore were facing the Cowboys and not the Jets defense, then I might be more prone to take my chances and let it fly, but it’s a low percentage play this week. In a week with these matchups, I am elevating players like Antonio Brown (averages 8 catches, 90 yards per game), Andre Johnson (6.9 catches 83.4 yards per game), or Pierre Garcon (6.7 catches, 73.1 yards per game). They are safe, reliable plays and if they do hit paydirt with a touchdown (their lack of touchdowns in 2013 make it seem unlikely), then booyaaa; all the better. But prioritize yardage and receptions this week. When the pickin’s slim in a week with so many difficult matchups, don't throw darts and hope to get lucky. Take the safe play and be happy with six to eight points. You can satisfy the riverboat gambler in you and get that wild and crazy streak in Week 10 when there are only four bye week teams and the matchups are much friendlier to big scoring (Philly vs. GB, Det vs. Chi, Oak vs. Giants, Denver vs. San Diego, and Dallas vs. New Orleans).
I know what you are saying. Antonio Brown, Andre Johnson and Pierre Garcon are all starting in pretty much every league no matter what the matchups look like and even more so this week. I know, I know, I know…this paragraph is where I seal the deal. In a week in which you're playing it safe, you need to look at targets and average yards per game. We want consistency, people. We are ignoring touchdowns and focusing on opportunities. These players aren't the pretty people, so if you’re squeamish, you may want to go right back to Brandon's segment of the article. Here are some names that fit the profile of being safe choices and consistent producers; they are either on your league’s waiver wire, rotting away oZn your bench or have frustrated you to this point. This week, they just might be your hero. In rank order, they are - Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, Mike Wallace, Kendall Wright, Julian Edelman, Stevie Johnson, Brian Hartline, Stephen Hill, Aaron Dobson, Davone Bess, Michael Floyd, Nate Washington and Jerome Simpson.
It’s a long list I realize, so let’s break it down. When looking for consistency, give running backs with primary roles in the passing game the benefit of all doubt. I do this most weeks but in lean times it is even more important.
Darren Sproles: He came into 2013 as a potential stud and has fallen extremely short of that, but this week he makes up for it. The Jets D is tough, which means more dump offs and check downs. Sproles is best in space and one on one against linebackers, and this is the consistent production we want. Sproles could provide a big play or two, so there is some upside potential in an otherwise disappointing Fantasy year for the New Orleans RB.
Pierre Thomas: His season has been similar to Sproles’ in many ways. He gets touches in the passing game but also runs the ball, so his opportunities should be more consistent.
Danny Woodhead: He came into 2013 as a bit of a sleeper but after seventeen receptions in the first three weeks he was no longer, but the production hasn't quite been what owners came to expect. This week he has one of the few good matchups vs. Washington. He has scored a TD in three of his last four games and San Diego is coming off bye, so he should be rested and ready to go.
I ranked the receivers and I created the list very simply. They all have 45 targets or more to date and none of them would be considered must-starts. They could be available on your waiver wire or sitting on your bench where you pay them no mind. Wallace and Johnson I find intriguing because they both have the potential to make the big play with the reliability of consistent targets regardless of tough matchups. Edelman's star has been dimming but he still gets targeted due to Amendola's injuries and Kenbrell Thompkins’ inability to grasp the offense. The rest of the list is pretty much a numbers game. They get consistent targets and we are in lean times.
Good luck, and I hope you find your way through this rough and tumble week. Bet the under, ladies, because this week could be a low scoring one for Fantasy owners. Congratulations to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Boston Strong!
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