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2020 Fantasy Football: Week 9 Loves and Hates

Eight weeks in already and for the first time in what seemed like forever, no games in this week’s NFL action were delayed due to positive COVID-19 tests, although there were some positives after the Week 8 Sunday slate. Instead, injuries to running backs returned to the fantasy football headlines and now that it’s November, weather was a big factor on NFL Sunday throughout the league for the first time this season. In this week’s episode of love/hate picks, we’ll review how the conditions affected our picks from Week 8 and try to do better by giving you guys you should keep an eye on during Week 9 — either because I love their value in your lineup or because I hate having to start them. 

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Week 8 Review

In Week 7, we earned nearly straight As. Not so much of an easy ride this week. My Week 8 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for myself in parentheses. 

Quarterback (C+)

First off, my love pick — Derek Carr of Las Vegas. I came into the week eyeballing this matchup on both sides — Baker Mayfield without Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Derek Carr and his pretty solid passing game of 2020. I predicted a shootout and for Derek Carr to utilize all of his receiving tools, mentioned a 3-touchdown upside, and named him my love of the week. Instead, he had to play in a wet and windy FirstEnergy Stadium and there were 22 points scored in total by both teams in the game. 

Carr, who came into the game completing 68.9% of his passes on the season, only threw at a 62.5% clip and for 112 passing yards, both season lows. His season-high 6 rushes for 41 yards couldn’t make up for an overall fantasy disappointment as he only threw one touchdown and was outside the top 15 amongst quarterbacks in Week 8. Weather may have been the primary reason Carr couldn’t air it out to his talented receiving core but an L is an L, and I’ll wear it.

But hold the brakes on trashing on me for now because my hate pick, Josh Allen, was an even bigger fantasy bust against the collapsing New England Patriots. While the Bills won the game on a big defensive play to take the ball away from Cam Newton, their offense was far from dominant. The Patriots held Josh Allen to only 18 pass attempts and Allen hit on only 61.1% of them. His previous low in pass attempts on the season was 27 against the Chiefs in Week 6 when he threw for 122 yards. In Week 8, Allen threw for only 154 yards. He also wasn’t efficient moving out of the pocket and rushing; his 10 rushes only cashed in 23 yards, but he did find the end zone on one of those rushes to at least not completely dissipate in the fantasy rankings. His fantasy production was at a season low, however, with no passing touchdowns and 1 interception, to somewhat salvage my QB grade of the week. Allen has not thrown a touchdown since Week 6. 

Running Back (C)

For my love pick, you might say that I was looking for a revenge game from Le’Veon Bell. The plan was to have the game out of hand early and for Clyde Edwards-Helaire to fade eventually. Indeed, the Chiefs messed around and had a blast against the laughing stock that is the New York Jets. And indeed, Edwards-Helaire saw yet another dip in snaps (49%, season-low). The rookie finished the game with 6 rushes (season-low), 21 rushing yards (season-low), and sprinkled in 3 catches for 10 yards and didn’t score a touchdown.

The issue? Le’Veon Bell wasn’t a factor either. Instead, any “small” plays were just glorified shovel passes from Mahomes that turned into bigger plays. Bell only received 26% of the snaps (season-low) and rushed for an ugly 7 yards on 6 attempts, including a 4th & 1 stuff. He did catch the ball 3 times for 31 yards, making him the Chiefs backfield scrimmage yard leader of the day, but his fumble topped off what was a pretty useless fantasy showing from the three-time Pro Bowler. 

My hate picks, however, of the Chargers backfield were a little more successful. Granted, the fantasy focus was set on Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley headed into the week but three Chargers running backs were fantasy-relevant in Week 8 — Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope, and Gabe Nabers! Anthony Lynn is the worst. I’m deducting a bit from my score because Jackson was sufficient for some owners but at the end of the day, it’s time to stop relying on Chargers running backs until Austin Ekeler comes back. 

Chargers Backfield Rushing Receiving
Justin Jackson 17 carries, 89 yards 3 catches, 53 yards
Troymaine Pope 10 carries, 67 yards 5 catches, 28 yards
Gabe Nabers 0 carries, 0 yards 1 catch, 2 yards, 1 TD
Joshua Kelley 7 carries, 32 yards 1 catch, -7 yards

Wide Receiver (C)

Oof. On the other end of the predicted Browns-Raiders shootout, I had Baker Mayfield using Rashard Higgins to fill in the void left by the injury of Odell Beckham Jr. As the #2 option on the Cleveland wide receiver depth chart, I figured it was time for Higgins to exploit a lackluster secondary and have himself his moment. Instead, Browns kicker Cody Parkey actually outscored Higgins, who finished lower in the Week 8 PPR rankings than Kareem Hunt, Harrison Bryant, David Njoku, and Jarvis Landry. Higgins finished the rainy Week 8 matchup with just 1 catch for 14 yards on 3 targets. The Browns face a bye in Week 9 but don’t lose faith in Higgins — the wind ain’t gonna be north of 40 mph every week. 

Meanwhile, at least my wide receiver hate of Tyler Lockett, the #1 fantasy wide receiver of Week 7, took a back seat. When making this pick, I pointed out that in a loaded matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, the man I expect to receive the most trust from Russell Wilson would be second-year sensation DK Metcalf and as a result, Lockett would have a quiet fantasy day. Indeed, Metcalf caught 12 of his 15 targets for a season-high 161 yards and 2 touchdowns to make him the #1 PPR WR of Week 8. As a result, Lockett was back to his ways of being fantasy-underwhelming, catching 4 of his 5 targets for 33 yards and no touchdowns. Needed to nail this to avoid embarrassment.

Fun fact: In PPR scoring, Davante Adams was the WR2 of Week 7 and the WR2 of Week 8. The WR1 of Weeks 7 and 8 were teammates Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, respectively.

Tight End (F)

My, my. What do we have here? I had a go at some matchup-targeting by loving the opportunity for Richard Rodgers, who I anticipated would be the starting tight end and a primary target for the TE-loving Carson Wentz. Instead, the Eagles got Dallas Goedert back on the field to my surprise and Rodgers took 0 offensive snaps for Philadelphia. Well, OK — surely it was Goedert Day instead, right? Carson Wentz thought otherwise and utilized 9 different pass-catchers to pace the Eagles offense. Goedert, despite taking 83% of the Eagles’ snaps, was targeted only once. He caught that target for 15 yards… and that was it. Talk about a miss. Yikes. 

Meanwhile, my hate pick, T.J. Hockensen was part of a heavy passing game from Matthew Stafford and took a decent part of that production, making 7 catches on 10 targets for 65 yards. Despite not scoring, Hockensen’s tough matchup against the Colts wasn’t enough to make him irrelevant. In a week that wasn’t stacked with tight end explosions, Hockensen owners were happy with the fact that he was the TE6 of the week in PPR scoring. That’s tough. 

Week 9 Loves & Hates

A couple of great calls, but that’s basically it — let’s bounce back, shall we? 

Week 9 Quarterbacks

Love: Drew Lock (DEN)

If there’s one thing we learned from our most recent experience making picks for November football, it’s that the weather will come to bite you in the clutch. Speaking of clutch, what’s the best way to avoid weather ruining a love pick? Take a quarterback playing against a disappointing secondary in an indoor stadium. Coming off the most impressive rally in his young NFL career, Drew Lock put on for his city and now he gets to go to Atlanta. 

The Atlanta defense comes into Week 9 allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks of any squad in the NFL. In Drew Lock’s one indoor game so far in the NFL, he stomped on the Houston Texans by winning 38-24. In the December 2019 matchup, he threw at an 81.5% completion rate, turned the ball over once, and threw for 309 yards and 3 touchdowns. That upside at that price? I’m all over that in dailies and in some regular leagues, Lock might be a free play off the waivers in a week where Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, and Joe Burrow are all on byes.

Hate: Teddy Bridgewater (CAR)

The Kansas Chiefs defense is coming off an essential bye, having faced the New York Jets in Week 8. For as much spotlight as the Chiefs get for their offense (rightly so), they are also a top 10 fantasy defense against quarterbacks in 2020. Part of this is due to how well they have pressured the quarterback — through 8 weeks, the Chiefs have the second-best QB pressure percentage in the league (only trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers). 

Teddy Bridgewater, set to face the Chiefs in Week 9, comes into the matchup as the quarterback with the second-worst quarterback rating when pressured (32.7, only Baker Mayfield is worse). Bridgewater had a mild injury scare that he luckily rebounded from in Week 8, but the fantasy floor for him in Week 9 is rock-bottom even if he is feeling 100%. Bridgewater becomes my first repeat hate pick of the year. I last picked against him Week 6 against the Bears, when he posted season-lows across the board.

Week 9 Running Backs

Love: James Robinson (JAX)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have had somewhat of a troubled season and their fans haven’t let up on the Gardner Minshew hype, but the brightest spot of the 2020 Jaguars has to be their undrafted rookie running back James Robinson, who has played himself into a weekly start for fantasy owners across all leagues. With Gardner Minshew out with thumb fractures, the Jaguars will start rookie Jake Luton at quarterback. A collegiate journeyman, Luton spent his final three college football seasons at Oregon State, where he completed 62.1% of his passes and had a TD/INT ratio of 3.82. At the NFL combine, Luton was graded with an 85th percentile throw velocity but at Oregon State, he averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt and 11.7 yards per completion.

Jake Luton

The fantasy headliner coming out of this? Field day for James Robinson, who should not only carry the load of the offensive playbook but could also feature in the pass game, providing him upside in PPR leagues that could land him as a top 5 running back of the week — daily lineup value galore. 

Hate: Ronald Jones II (TB)

In the second meeting of 2020 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints, Tom Brady will have the return of Antonio Brown. Adding to an already pass-first offense, the Bucs backfield is doomed to fail against a New Orleans Saints run defense that ranks just outside the top 5 in fantasy and third in fewest rushing yards allowed but carry. Of the Fournette-Jones duo, the value of Ronald Jones II probably sees further damage after his first fumble of the season in Week 8. Avoid the Bucs backfield in daily lineups and consider starting Fournette over Jones if you have the backfield stash of the Bucs. 

Week 9 Wide Receivers

Love: Justin Jefferson (MIN)

The Detroit Lions defense could use some work, but their biggest concern might be the big play. Through 8 weeks, the Detroit Lions are top 10 in the NFL in rate of explosive pass plays allowed. This week, they face the poster boy for the big play target. The #1 receiver in average receiving yards per target? It’s not Hopkins, it’s not Julio, it’s not Davante. It’s rookie Justin Jefferson. Granted, a good bit of Jefferson’s production this year has come in garbage time, but who is to say that the Lions have the talent to stop the duo of Thielen and Jefferson? Give me the upside of Jefferson in daily lineups and be sure to start him in your season leagues for his blowup potential this week. 

Hate: All 49ers WR (SF)

It doesn’t take a genius to realize the 49ers offense is depleted. Despite the rocky play of Jimmy Garoppolo in 2020, his presence will be missed in the 49ers offense. To add to that, one of the best tight ends in football, George Kittle, will miss several weeks of action. Naturally, the target share should increase for the 49ers wide receivers, but in an offensive scheme by Kyle Shanahan that utilizes one of the most creative backfields in the league, the fantasy attention should turn to the 49ers backups to Raheem Mostert. 

The matchup on Thursday Night Football against the Packers doesn’t help one bit. Through Week 8, the Packers continue to be one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, thanks heavily to their cornerback duo of Kevin King and Jaire Alexander. Meanwhile, they are the worst fantasy run defense through 8 weeks this season. Instead of chasing the low-floor pass-catchers on the 49ers, look to the waiver wire and pick up 49ers running backs if you need them. 

Week 9 Tight Ends

Love: Mark Andrews (BAL)

On a surface level, the matchup is scary when Mark Andrews faces the Indianapolis Colts, the #1 fantasy defense against tight ends in 2020. Andrews, coming in cold, still shouldn’t fool you as he is still the primary red zone target for a Baltimore Ravens offense that needs to bounce back after a close loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and will use tight ends to do so. The Ravens’ 27.6% share of targets to tight ends ranks seventh in the NFL this year. 

Andrews has been boom or bust all season long and has busted on weeks that he hasn’t scored a touchdown. But if the Ravens are to win the game against the solid all-rounded Indianapolis Colts with Darius Leonard back in action, they will need touchdowns and Andrews proves to be the primary source of reliability for the reigning MVP. This is the comeback game for Mark Andrews and he will score the first touchdown of the season by a tight end against the Colts. 

Hate: Hayden Hurst (ATL)

Granted, if you are an owner of Falcons wide receiver depth (e.g. Russell Gage) or Hayden Hurst, you are keeping a close eye on the possibility that Calvin Ridley misses Week 9 due to a foot injury that cut his Week 8 short. However, the Ridley news shouldn’t distract you from the fact that Hayden Hurst has needed touchdowns to outdo his projections. While Hurst is talented, his volumes have been up and down all season, and facing a matchup of the Denver Broncos, the touchdown potential is slim. Through Week 8, the Broncos have only allowed 2 touchdowns to tight ends all season. Think of this very interesting game as a way to go big on Julio Jones, not as a way to fall prey to the Hurst upside. 

Who are your sleepers for Week 9? What steal is going to win you your daily lineup contest? Can we get back to our near-straight-As performance from Week 7 this week?

If you enjoyed Ahaan’s Week 9 Loves and Hates, make sure to check out our full Week 9 Fantasy Football lineup.

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