Remember last week, when fantasy owners were ready to give up on Tom Brady? Seems silly now after he put up 400 yards and four TDs on the NFL's No. 2 pass defense.
This week finds fantasy owners ready to call it quits with Ray Rice, and while no one is giving up on Arian Foster, they're certainly aggravated after he left Sunday night's game in the first quarter because of a back injury.
Struggling stars are the toughest players to deal with in fantasy. Some owners can't bring themselves to bench them, as they don't want to miss out on their comeback games. Other owners seem to actually enjoy benching them, as if they're sending a message or proving to everyone else how smart they are.
Regardless of how you like to approach things, the key is staying consistent. When you start going back and forth on your strategy, you usually wind up only getting the bad games and missing out on the good ones. Pick a lane and stay in it. It might work, it might not, but at least you won't drive yourself crazy all week trying to decide.
Let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 9.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's Fantasy Mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
It was a tame week for most big-name quarterbacks, but fortunately most “starters” (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck) put up over 20 points.
Robert Griffin III might have been the biggest disappointment. However, it wasn't because he played poorly -- it was simply because he didn't account for any touchdowns. He threw for 291 yards and rushed for another 17, but the Redskins kept getting down within the 5-yard line and running it in. Contrast that with Andy Dalton, another disappointment, who threw for more yards (338) but generally looked bad most of the game, tossing three INTs and losing a fumble. Dalton is coming off a string of great performances, so there's still some starter potential with him, but Griffin III still has more upside despite a string of disappointing performances.
Notable Riser: Nick Foles accounted for a ridiculous 59.6 fantasy points against Oakland. Foles has been more good than bad this year, having monster performances in three of the four games in which he's seen extended playing time. The Eagles' offense doesn't really lend it self to consistency, but Foles has more upside than the average backup QB, such as dual-threat guys Jake Locker and Terrelle Pryor, both of whom struggled last week.
Notable Faller: Matt Ryan turned in his second straight dud, putting up 8.96 fantasy points against the Panthers. His one TD pass was subpar, but even more worrisome is his three INTs. He threw four two weeks ago, and his seven INTs in the past two games more than double his total for the season up to that point. Clearly, he desperately needs a healthy Roddy White (ankle, hamstring) back. Ryan can still likely put up good stats against bad defenses, but he's not a good starting option right now against even mediocre units.
Of course, the story of Week 9 was Aaron Rodgers' shoulder injury. It sounds like he'll miss a few weeks, so if you own him and don't have a reliable backup, it's best to make a trade (maybe Jay Cutler, who's expected back this week from his groin injury). Don't be afraid to pull the trigger, as you can't afford to play matchups off the wire if you're still in playoff contention. Owners of guys like James Jones and possibly even Jordy Nelson are hurting, too, but they need to stay the course and hope Green Bay's QB situation settles itself sooner rather than later.
Week 9 was all about redemption for several running backs. Chris Johnson had a monster game (29 fantasy points), reminding owners that he can still do damage despite losing goal-line carries. Steven Jackson (76 total yards on 16 touches) didn't perform as well, but he looked healthy and actually had a touchdown that was called back because of penalty. C.J. Spiller, who we'll talk more about in a second, had a season high in rushing yards (116), and preseason sleeper Chris Ivory dominated with 139 yards and a score on just 18 carries against the Saints.
Don't hold grudges against these players. Ivory still has some trust to earn back, but the other three are legit starters again. Of course, it's not all good news. Darren McFadden did the opposite of redeem himself by injuring his hamstring in the first half and not returning. He'll likely miss more time, making Rashad Jennings at least a flex. Darren Sproles also got hurt, suffering a first-quarter concussion against the Jets. He's disappointed all season, and it looks like that will continue. It's too early to drop these guys (you can make a case for dropping Trent Richardson, though), but at this point in the year, it's not crazy to think about it if they'll be out for multiple weeks.
Notable Riser: With 23 carries, six catches, 178 total yards and two touchdowns against the Titans,
Notable Faller: Jonathan Stewart (ankles) returned to the Panthers' lineup, which is bad news for owners of DeAngelo Williams. Williams was already inconsistent, but with Stewart stealing touches (12) and Mike Tolbert still stealing goal-line carries, Williams will need to break a big play most weeks to put up even flex-worthy stats. Fred Jackson, who had 17 touches for 99 total yards last week, will also lose value if C.J. Spiller remains as healthy as he looked against Kansas City (155 total yards on 14 touches). Jackson at least gets most goal-line carries, but Spiller still has a chance to finish strong.
Andre Johnson put on a show against the normally stingy Colts' secondary, scoring 40.9 fantasy points. Johnson has had two solid games with Case Keenum under center, and it doesn't look like he's going to slow down soon. Keenum seems locked in on him (much like Mike Glennon was with Vincent Jackson in his first couple starts in Tampa), which is hurting DeAndre Hopkins fantasy value. It will likely all even out, but either way, Johnson will be a top-tier WR.
Similarly, T.Y. Hilton stepped up as Indianapolis' No. 1 receiver against the Texans' No. 1 pass defense (30.1 fantasy points). It looks like Hilton can handle other teams' No. 1 corners, but he's not helped by the fact that there are no other “distractions” in the Colts' offense. Darrius Heyward-Bey is average, at best, so he might continue to disappoint.
Notable Riser: Danny Amendola didn't do it the way we expected, but he still reminded fantasy owners than he's a big part of New England's offense. Instead of a high volume of targets and steady accumulation of yards, Amendola used a couple big plays to get over 100 yards and score. Health will always be a concern with Amendola, but with the Pats offense clicking against a solid pass defense last week, Amendola is back to being a must-start. New Orleans' Lance Moore, who caught six of 10 targets for 70 yards against the Jets, is in that discussion, as well.
Notable Faller: Whether it's because of poor play on his part or simply a production of the Chiefs' offense, Dwayne Bowe continues to be a major bust. He had his best game since Week 4 against Buffalo, and still resulted in just 6.7 points. It wasn't for lack of opportunities, as Bowe was targeted a season-high 12 times and had a season-high seven catches. A good game will likely happen at some point, but Bowe joins Greg Jennings (6 catches, 9 targets, 56 yards) as a droppable receiver whose name value outranks his actual value. Both can be worth starting in the right matchups, but trade them if you can.
Fantasy owners continued to get no consistency from the tight end position (other than Jimmy Graham). For every “borderline TE1” that scored (Tim Wright,
Surprisingly, Jordan Cameron (1 catch, 5 yards) also disappointed. Perhaps that was just to even out Rob Gronkowski (8-135, TD) returning to dominance, but obviously it was Cameron's worst performance of the season. Cameron had been living somewhat dangerously the past couple weeks, putting up a lot of his points in “garbage time,” but with Jason Campbell and the Browns offense actually playing well, few would have predicted Cameron would struggle. He'll bounce back soon enough, and he's still a must-start over all the players mentioned above.
Notable Riser: Last week we said Jason Witten is no longer a must-start, and despite his monster performance against the Vikings (16.2 fantasy points), we're sticking with that assessment. Witten was fantastic last week, catching eight of 10 targets for 102 yards and a TD, but this isn't anything new. Twice before this year he's had 16-plus-point games, and he's followed those up with 1.2- and 2.7-points performances, respectively. The Cowboys seem to change their gameplan every week, so Witten could go back to getting three targets next week. He's never a bad play, but he's also not a sure thing. Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen, who both scored last week, are similar, but they're still generally more consistent.
Notable Faller: Heath Miller always seems on the verge of having a good game, but he's turned in three straight subpar performances. He's averaged five targets per contest in that span, which isn't bad, but it's tough to count on him when he's also averaging 26 yards per game. We know Miller is a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger, particularly in the red zone, but it's tough to keep him rostered when a new TE is popping up every week and essentially doing the same things as him. Someone like Joel Dreessen, who would fill in if Julius Thomas (ankle) is out in Denver, might be a better play this week.
Redskins at Vikings
Stat to know: Both the Vikings and Redskins are allowing over 9.2 fantasy points per game to tight ends. Jordan Reed is a solid starting option, and John Carlson is a potential sleeper, too, in his first game filling in for Kyle Rudolph (foot).
Sleeper: WR Greg Jennings (Redskins allowing third-most fantasy points per game to WRs.)