While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.
WEEK 9 SURVIVOR PICKS
Last week: Dallas (loss), Cleveland (win), Miami (win)
Plan A: Kansas City over NY Jets
Plan B: San Francisco over St. Louis
–However, if you haven’t already used Cincinnati (vs. Jacksonville) or Seattle (vs. Oakland), now is the time.
FADE OF THE WEEK
Last week: Green Bay Packers (+1.5) over New Orleans Saints (loss)
This week: Arizona Cardinals (+4) at Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: The Cowboys’ biggest strength in 2014 has been a top-flight rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray, but the Cardinals are capable of neutralizing that weapon via the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense (77.9 yds/gm). Take note that Dallas is working on a short week here and is 1-4 ATS when playing on Sunday following a Monday night game. Meanwhile, Arizona is 6-1 ATS over its last seven road contests and 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall.
Last week: 1-4
The Big Puma and I will post our final card Saturday via twitter. For now, here are some of the sides we’re eyeing up:
CLEVELAND BROWNS (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ARIZONA CARDINALS (+3.5) at Dallas Cowboys
NEW YORK GIANTS (+3.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
BALTIMORE RAVENS (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-10) vs. St. Louis Rams
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (+3) vs. Denver Broncos
START ‘EM UP
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. St. Louis Rams): Kaepernick has had two weeks to get ready for an opponent in the Rams whom he torched for 343 passing yards and three touchdowns back on October 13 when these two teams got together in St. Louis. No team was in need of the bye week worse than San Francisco, who got smashed up 42-17 at Denver on October 19 to move to a disappointing 4-3 in the standings entering the off week. Take note that the Rams are currently surrendering an average of 22.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL).
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts (at NY Giants): Bradshaw has already found pay dirt an impressive eight times this season, which includes trips to the end zone in six of his last seven outings. Reliable in both phases of the offense, we like Bradshaw in Week 9 for two big reasons. First, this is a primetime showdown against his former team in the New York Giants, so you know the Indianapolis running back would love to stick it to his old club. Second, Big Blue currently ranks 22nd in the NFL in run defense (122.0 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL).
Kaepernick torched the Rams that last time these two teams got together.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cleveland Browns (vs. Tampa Bay): Hawkins is averaging a healthy 8.71 targets per game this season, but with tight end Jordan Cameron out of action for this Week 9 contest, we expect that number to cross over into double-digits. So not only will Hawkins receive plenty of opportunities to make a serious impact on Sunday, he’ll get to do so against a Tampa Bay defense that is currently surrendering more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the league (30.3 pts/gm). That’s the perfect storm if you ask us.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (at New England): The third-year back out of San Diego State has been on an absolute tear since taking over for the injured Montee Ball, with 357 total yards and two scores in three starts. Hillman enters Week 9 on extra rest, is averaging 22.6 touches per game since being named the starting running back in Denver and faces a New England defense on Sunday afternoon that currently ranks 25th in the NFL against the run (129.6 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 22.5 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (fifth-most in NFL). Fireworks are expected for this matchup and don’t think for one second that Hillman won’t be a big part of that display.
Andre Johnson & DeAndre Hopkins, WRs, Houston Texans (vs. Philadelphia): This is strictly a matchup play, as the Philadelphia Eagles feature a highly suspect secondary that currently ranks 26th in the league against the pass (266.9 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 28.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). It’s never easy to back an offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this is a good spot for the Texans to put up some points by airing it out.
Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants (vs. Indianapolis): With Victor Cruz out for the season, the Giants will have to lean heavily on youngsters Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Donnell…all three of which are excellent starts in Week 9. Big Blue is coming off a bye and needs a huge showing here in order to stay in the hunt for the NFC East crown. Also note that Indianapolis is currently giving up an average of 10.2 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (sixth-most in NFL).
Cleveland Browns, D/ST (vs. Tampa Bay): Even with a bye week already under their collective belts, the Buccaneers still rank ninth in the NFL in turnovers, with 14. This is a bad team with a disastrous offensive line and a quarterback who lacks the consistency required to lead a top-flight passing attack. The Browns have been a bit underwhelming on the defensive side of the football this season, but this is one of the best matchups on the board for Week 9. Ride Cleveland with confidence.
SIT ‘EM DOWN
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): Griffin hasn’t played since September 14 and his teammates are coming off a Monday night road game at Dallas, so expect some rust here. In addition, the Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 17.1 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-fewest in NFL), so this matchup doesn’t lend itself to a high ceiling for the Washington signal-caller. There are better options out there.
Jonas Gray, RB, New England Patriots (vs. Denver): Gray grabbed the fantasy world’s attention with a 17-carry, 86-yard effort against the Chicago Bears in Week 8 foll
owing his promotion from the New England practice squad. And while all signs point to the former Notre Dame product stepping into the starting role at RB for the Patriots, Week 9 sets up poorly when it comes to the 24-year-old’s upside. Manning vs. Brady is going to be a classic shootout featuring plenty of fantasy goodness for both quarterbacks as well as their respective wideouts, but we don’t see Gray making a big splash against a defense that is surrendering an average of just 15.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eighth-fewest in NFL).
RG3 has plenty of rust to kick off before owners can consider starting him.
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (at Miami): Quarterback Philip Rivers is spreading the ball around like never before, which has put a serious dent in Allen’s production this season. So far the sophomore wideout has posted just one 100-yard receiving effort with only one trip to the end zone through eight games. That doesn’t bode well for a cross-country, early start time road game against a Miami Dolphins defense that currently ranks third in the NFL against the pass (211.6 yds/gm) while giving up an average of just 19.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (sixth-fewest in NFL).
All running backs from the New York Jets & St. Louis Rams (at Kansas City and at San Francisco): We’re passing on Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Tre Mason, Zac Stacy and any other running back you can think of who plays for either the New York Jets or St. Louis Rams. First off, Kansas City is surrendering an average of just 13.5 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL), while San Francisco is permitting an average of just 13.9 (sixth-fewest in NFL). In addition, both backfields are utilizing running back-by-committee approaches, which does nothing to help the fantasy stock of any player involved. Road games against tough run defenses with limited touches is an disastrous formula for fantasy success.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (at Dallas): Fitz busted out last week to the tune of a 7-160-1 stat line against the Philadelphia Eagles, but take note that Week 8 was the first time this season that the veteran Pro Bowler notched more than 100 receiving yards in a game. As shocking as it may sound, the Dallas secondary has been much better this season than their counterparts from Philadelphia, surrendering an average of just 16.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (fourth-fewest in NFL). It’s understandable if your roster is devoid of viable replacements for Fitzgerald, but we still advise you taper your expectations here.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): We detailed above all the reasons why we aren’t high on the Washington offense in Week 9, so let us leave you with this one thought as it specifically pertains to Reed: The Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 5.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (sixth-fewest in NFL), with just two touchdowns surrendered to the position through eight contests.
Denver Broncos & New England Patriots, D/STs: The Broncos and Patriots have met a grand total of three times since Peyton Manning landed in Denver prior to the start of the 2012 season. And in those three contests these two teams have combined to score an average of 53.0 points per game. Expect yet another shootout between these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh