We are now 8 weeks into the NFL season and what a wild and crazy ride it has been. We have seen Fitz Magic come and go….and come again. We have watched a man with one arm play one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. We haven’t watched Le’veon Bell play a single snap of football this year. We have witnessed the greatness that is Todd Gurley as he chases the single season touchdown record. We have gazed on in amazement as the undrafted wide receiver Adam Thielen balls out for his hometown. So with all this greatness that we have seen, experienced, and maybe cursed at the TV because of, I thought it fitting to start this week’s Play or Stay Away with a bit of an introduction on what I aim to accomplish here.
This is not a typical “Start or Sit” column. In writing this I hope to help you, The Whisper Nation, gather information, look at your rosters, and come up with a decision you can live with week to week. At the end of the day, it is your roster, your lineup, your matchup, and if you are fortunate enough to get the hardware, your championship! This is not a binary “yes” or “no” to a start or sit question, this is me gathering the deep, dark intel of the fantasy world and advising you to either trust that little voice inside your head that screams “PLAY YOUR GUY” or to take some time, review some information and decide to “STAY AWAY.” At the end of the day it’s your team, and you have to be at peace with your decisions.
In addition to some initial thoughts, I wanted to recap last week a bit. First the bad news….I told the Whisper Nation to consider staying away from Cam Newton (QB3) and Marvin Jones(WR1). MAN, I WAS WAY OFF! Still, I had some other calls I was very proud of. Like frustrated fantasy GM’s with plenty of stock in Tyler Boyd (WR4), Stefon Diggs (WR7), Lamar Miller (RB8), and of course last week’s number one fantasy quarterback and number one in Big Travy’s heart….DESHAUN WATSON!
Side Note: Last week I ditched tight ends. This week I will only write about one per category. Let’s face it: the tight end position in fantasy football is incredibly gross. You will likely have to start your guys if you have any of them because they are all pretty much equally horrible and touchdown dependent. I will provide insights going forward where I feel them necessary, but for the most part, go forward emboldened in knowing that I am suffering with you!
I hope this article serves you in some sort of fashion. I hope that you find me mildly entertaining, barely informative, and at the very least skim this piece to see if I mention your players. Enjoy!
Plays for Week 9
Philip Rivers – Heading into the Chargers bye week Rivers was QB8 in fantasy. He had thrown for the third most touchdowns(17) and only three interceptions. He has a loaded cast of weapons, including fantasy stud Melvin Gordon and elite route running wide receiver Keenan Allen. So if Rivers is such a no brainer, why am I bringing him up here? Well this week nine opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, on paper have been rather dominant when facing opposing quarterbacks. They have allowed, on average, the league’s fewest points per game to the position with 10.6, and over the last 4 weeks, they have only allowed three passing touchdowns. I don’t mean to take anything away from what Peter Carroll has done with his defense this year given all the key players that have left or gotten injured, but the Seahawks haven’t exactly played Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers every week. Seattle has played 7 games and in those contests have played the following quarterbacks: Case Keenum, Dak Prescott, Josh Rosen, Derek Carr, a struggling Matt Stafford and pre-breakout Mitch Trubisky. Of those listed, only Goff is inside the top 10 at the position and the rest find themselves outside the top 15. I feel very confident that you can roll Rivers out there and expect his usual production this week.
Jared Goff – Goff continues to be a competent quarterback, teammates with the best running back in football, and coached by possibly the most innovative young offensive mind in football right now, Sean McVay. This week, young Jared heads to the bayou to take on the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have been playing much better as of late on defense and even added reinforcements to their secondary by trading for Eli Apple last week. Do not be dissuaded, Whisper Nation, from firing up Goff in this matchup. This game has a massive over/under of nearly 60 points and features two of the most explosive offenses in the game today. There will be plenty of points to be had by fantasy players in this game, and that starts with Jared Goff who just threw three touchdowns against Green Bay last week.
Russell Wilson – Wilson has notoriously started frustratingly slow for fantasy purposes over his seven year career. It has been no different this season as the Seahawks have reverted to a run heavy offensive attack which had forced Wilson to post the overall QB20 numbers in weeks 1-4. Since then, Russ has been quite efficient and lethal. If we exclude Wilson’s week 6 bye, he is tied for #5 in all of fantasy football. This week Seattle will host a rested Chargers team that prior to their bye was allowing an average of nearly 18 points per game to enemy signal callers. With 6 teams on bye and streaming options with not nearly the upside Wilson has, you should look to trust in Russ this week.
Latavius Murray –Talk about a tale of two seasons! In the first four games of this year, Latavius Murray had only ran for 64 yards on 19 carries and scored ZERO touchdowns. From that point on, Murray has been solid, if not highly productive for the Vikings, carrying the ball 63 times for 322 yards and 4 touchdowns while posting numbers good enough to be the fantasy football RB6 over the last month. Murray is in yet another good position to feast this week against a Lions squad that surrenders 136 yards per game on average! The Lions have also surrendered a whopping 5 rushing scores in only seven games played. With Dalvin Cook not due back until after Minnesota’s week 10 bye, you can and should deploy Murray with gusto in a choice matchup as it could be his last time with a featured back’s workload this season.
Duke Johnson – This one has me cringing as I write it….so please, hear me out! This is purely a matchup situation as Duke Johnson has really only been startable one time this season. That game was against the high octane Chargers in which Duke had his season high in receiving yards with 73 while adding another 36 rushing yards on the ground. The Browns were out of the game early that Sunday and were forced to lean on Duke more in the passing game in an effort to climb back in. If you have eyeballs and have witnessed the elite offense that is the Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City Chief then you know this game could end up much worse than the 38-14 beatdown the Chargers gave the Browns. The Browns will be asking their newly appointed offensive coordinator and former running backs coach Freddie Kitchens to call plays for the first time in his career on Sunday. His past experience with the Bruce Arians era in Arizona and previous work with David Johnson suggests to me that Duke could see some extra work on Sunday. They are heavy underdogs against a Chiefs defense that allows the 3rd most receptions to and leads the league in receiving yards allowed to opposing running backs. Once again, we have a heavy bye week, and if you need the running back dart throw, Duke actually sets up quite nicely for consideration here.
Chris Carson – Since coming back from a hip injury that forced him to miss Seattle’s week four action against the Cardinals, Chris Carson has averaged 20 touches a game and has been the undeniable featured back for the Seahawks. He has posted the overall RB21 numbers during that time (Seattle served their bye in week 7). Last week, he destroyed the Lions defense for 25 carries for 105 yards, and he hit pay dirt as well. He continues to be an RB2 with nice upside week-to-week, and this week should be no different as the Seahawks host the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers have been a middle of the pack defense against the run, but Carson’s opportunity in a game where the Hawks are favored by a point or less (depending on the Vegas sportsbook you look at) means he should stay relevant in this game.
DeVante Parker – Due to the fact that he has been a preseason breakout candidate for his entire career, no player perplexes the fantasy football pundits quite like DeVante Parker. It is literally giving me anxiety writing about him and buying into his fantasy outlook this season, let alone this week, but here we are. Last week, due to injuries to his fellow wide receivers and with his agent making noise and calling out Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, Parker saw 9 targets, catching 6 of them for 134 scoreless yards against the Texans. Of course, 46 of those yards came on a fluke targetless tipped catch, but it was a valiant effort regardless. I have faith that their heavily depleted and banged up receiving corps will force the Dolphins to rely on Parker once again. 9 targets was the team high on Thursday night, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue as Brock Osweiler will remain the starter. The Dolphins will face the Jets on Sunday in a game that Vegas projects to be close. The Jets have been punished through the air as of late as well, as only 3 teams have bested their average points given up to enemy wide receivers of 29.55 over the last 4 weeks. Considering that during this same span, no team has allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than the New York Jets, and Parker looks set up for a big day.
Jarvis Landry – Landry and the Cleveland Browns for that matter have been all over the place. Landry himself hasn’t cleared 100 yards since week three and has only two touchdowns this entire season. You don’t have to look far to see one of his worst performances of the year last week against the Steelers as he only totalled 39 yards on eight catches. There are signs of life for Landry, however as the Browns will be hosting the Chiefs and be forced to claw their way back into this one. Landry also has at least 9 targets in his last 6 games. He is the no brainer #1 option in the Browns passing attack and he is facing a Chiefs team that has allowed the third most receiving yardage over the last month of this NFL season. This is a good spot to bet on Landry racking up decent yardage and being a solid fantasy option.
Sammy Watkins – Similar to the Landry take, this game has an over/under of 52, and sets up as a bit of a shootout between an elite offense in Kansas City and a highly talented one in Cleveland. I like Sammy in this game as he is coming off a two touchdown performance at home against Denver, but more importantly he saw a whopping 9 targets and caught 8 of them for a healthy 107 yards receiving. I get that due to there being so many solid weapons in Kansas City it is hard to trust this production week in and week out, but Sammy is in quite a position this week against a Cleveland secondary that has given up 733 receiving yards and four touchdowns over the last four weeks to wide receivers.
Jimmy Graham – The take on tight ends especially with a guy like Jimmy, is: you are going to be frustrated but you just gotta take your lumps at this point. He has still been a decent play at the position and was a measly one yard away from a touchdown last week that would have shattered any ill will you may feel against him at this point. If you are even thinking about looking elsewhere, stop! This week Jimmy and the Pack take on the Patriots and only four other teams in the league have surrendered more points to opposing tight ends than New England.
Stay Away for Week 9
Ben Roethlisberger – It seems like a no brainer to start Big Ben after he has posted QB1 numbers in almost every game this season, but he is on the road this week against an incredibly strong Baltimore Ravens defense. Not only is Baltimore the league leader against enemy signal callers only allowing 11.2 points per game on average, but Ben has only thrown five touchdowns in his last four meetings with the Ravens. Additionally in those matchups he has thrown three interceptions! With six teams on bye you may find it hard to bench Ben this week, but at the very least you need to temper expectations as he heads into what shapes up to be a divisional slugfest in Baltimore on Sunday.
Mitch Trubisky – Trubisky has been the sixth best fantasy quarterback over the last 3 weeks and really seems to be in quite the groove with new head coach Matt Nagy. While I am usually always about riding the hot hand in fantasy football, I am urging the Whisper Nation to consider their other options this Sunday. TRUTHbisky will be playing the Buffalo Bills, and while they are always a threat to get blown out due to their offensive woes, their defense has been stellar. QB21, QB6, QB25, QB31, and QB19. These are the weekly finishes of the last five quarterbacks to face the Bills defense. And I know what you are thinking: “Well who were the quarterbacks?” In order of appearance: Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, and Aaron Rodgers. Only some young mobile quarterbacks and a handful of elite quarterbacks. The Bills secondary should not be disrespected and Mitch could be in for a long day against Buffalo.
Dak Prescott – After back to back top 5 fantasy quarterback finishes and with 19% of the league on bye, one might be tempted to roll Dak Prescott out in their fantasy lineups this week in a home matchup against the Titans on Monday night. The Cowboy fans have been getting on me the last couple weeks and it has heightened with their addition of Amari Cooper. I know the Dallas fan base really wants this move and Dak Prescott to be their answer but that debate is for another day. This week Prescott plays a Titans team that has held their own against opposing quarterbacks only allowing 15.4 points per game on average. Furthermore the Titans will be rested after the bye and I don’t see Amari “I can’t catch” Cooper being the answer to this dreadful wide receiving corps. Dallas will lean on Zeke in this game and you should lean away from Dak in your fantasy matchup.
Isaiah Crowell – This feels like madness, I know, given what the Dolphins have been surrendering to opposing running backs this season. They just got done getting absolutely gutted by Lamar Miller on last Thursday night to the tune of 133 yards and a score. But this is more about Crowell for me, than it is about the Dolphins. In week two these teams played and Crow only managed 35 yards on 12 carries. I hear the argument that Bilal Powell was more involved back then, but now the Jets get to activate Elijah McGuire this week. In his first game without Powell, last week Crow was only able to manage 25 yards on 13 carries. The Jets running game is uninspiring to say the very least and they kept McGuire eligible to return from the IR for a reason. I know with the byes raging on you may be in a tough spot needing to play Crow this week, but don’t expect the performance Lamar Miller just had against the Dolphins.
Peyton Barber – Behind a below average offensive line in Tampa, Peyton Barber has done admirable work. He has topped 80 yards or more in 2 of his last 3 and scored in those games as well. These performances however were against bottom of the league rush defenses in Atlanta and Cincinnati. This week Barber will face Carolina who has only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns this year and is currently the fifth ranked defense against the run for fantasy purposes only allowing 15.9 points per game to the position. On a positive note for Barber, Ronald Jones has suffered a hamstring injury that will sideline him for multiple weeks. This should give Barber’s volume a nice uptick but this is a tough spot to rely on him for legit production.
Kerryon Johnson – A couple weeks back on the podcast, I called out Matt Patricia to his face….well I mean, I hope he watches us on YouTube. By the way, you totally should check us out on YouTube and subscribe! Either way, the Lions responded as we saw Kerryon come into his own as this team’s lead back in week 7 against the Miami Dolphins. What did Johnson do for an encore? He only ran for 22 yards on 8 carries against the Seattle Seahawks last week. The encouraging part of his effort against Seattle was that he caught 6 of 8 targets for 69 yards receiving. This usage, if continued will keep Johnson’s floor nice and high, but this week he gets a mean Vikings defense fresh off a loss to New Orleans in primetime. The Vikings have limited the likes of Mark Ingram, Isaiah Crowell, David Johnson, and even Todd Gurley to sub 100 yard efforts, and Ingram, Crow, and DJ all to under 60 yards! It may be tough sledding for the rookie this week against the new aged Purple People Eaters.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Those fantasy GM’s with JuJu on their squad should honestly be thanking me. By me writing JuJu into this section he is pretty much guaranteed to go off! But I am worried about his fantasy outlook this week against a Baltimore squad that has limited opposing wide receivers to only 27.4 points per game on average. Additionally only five teams in the league have allowed less receiving yards to opposing wide receivers this year. Hopefully starting JuJu doesn’t cause you to suffer a fantasy boo boo, but it is not looking good here.
Corey Davis – I am worried that the ship may have sailed for Corey Davis breakout this year. He has one respectable game back in week four against the Eagles where he exploded for 161 yards and a score. Other than that Davis has never gained more than 62 yards in a contest and has no other touchdowns this year. He will now face a quietly suffocating Dallas secondary that has been one of the league’s best against the position this year.
Austin Hooper – I am not the kind of monster that would tell you to straight up bench Austin Hooper in a league that is trotting out some really heartbreaking fantasy options at the tight end spot. I am just warning, Hooper could be in for a bad day against a Washington Redskins defense that just added Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and prior to that has been towards the top as far as defending the tight end this year. The Redskins on average have only allowed 9.7 points per game to the position. If you have to start Hooper temper those expectations as he could let you down, but hey which tight end hasn’t