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2021 Fantasy Football: Week 9 Loves & Hates

We’re still improving at some positions, such as trying to read touchdown situations better for running backs or simply finding the sleepers at tight end more effectively in what seems to be a weekly scramble. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.

In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).

We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.

More fantasy football fun for Week 9: Waiver Wire | FAAB Guide | Start & Sit | Loves & Hates | Stock Watch | Sleepers & Streamers | D/ST Streamers

Week 8 Review

My Week 8 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.

Quarterback (B-)

Out of my love of the week at quarterback, I was looking for the Giants to play from behind against an angry Chiefs and for Daniel Jones to take advantage of his dual ability against a reeling Chiefs defense. Instead, he started off the night cold, throwing an interception on his very first drive of the game. With the game tightly contested and Jones without his full receiving crew healthy, he was missing receivers all night and didn’t really establish the run, rushing only 5 times for 12 yards. He passed for 222 yards; a pair of touchdown passes to his tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Evan Engram saved his fantasy night from being a total bust but he was still outside the top 10 at his position and not the value we expected out of the pick. 

Our hate pick of Tua Tagovailoa was a solid one—if you were streaming at quarterback, a meeting against the Balls clearly posed a low-ceiling matchup. While the game was competitive for a while, the Bills eventually took off as an offense themselves in the second half. Regardless of the tale of two halves, Tagovailoa wasn’t busy racking up any sort of relevant fantasy production. He threw on mediocre volume (21/39) for 205 passing yards; as usual, he mixed in an interception and for the first time this season in a full game, he didn’t throw a touchdown. Rather, he rushed for one to keep him afloat among the top 20 at the position but he was still not a solid play, barring streamers in very deep leagues. A fine hate for the week.

Running Back (A)

My love of the week at running back was my favorite call entering Week 8; I used Damien Harris to make my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week. I was looking for more touchdowns and more efficiency against a Chargers team that hasn’t defended the run all year long. Indeed, Harris was on the board early with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Later in the game, he had multiple big runs called back, including one that would have resulted in his second touchdown.

Despite the bad beats, Harris was indeed effective and a solid start. He finished the game with 23 carries (tied for a season-high), 80 rushing yards, and 1 touchdown; that was good for top-20 a the position in PPR scoring. He has now scored 5 touchdowns in the last four games. 

As for Nick Chubb’s return, I was a party pooper. I called him one of the most respected runners in the NFL but also called out the usage. It was obvious he wasn’t going to randomly get a huge snap spike even with Kareem Hunt out. Adding in the tough matchup and it was going to be tough for Chubb to be efficient and/or find the end zone. Despite a decent 3.81 yards per carry, he was pretty to a bad game script as expected. In the ugly affair for the Browns, he rushed for a season-low 61 yards and did not find the end zone. He was one of the worst starts in fantasy football at the position and the immaculate hate pick by value. 

Wide Receiver (F)

With the return of Jerry Jeudy to the Broncos’ talented pass-catching unit, I was expecting some uncertainty surrounding Jeudy’s involvement—so much so that I hesitated on starting him in my league. I should have hesitated more since playing Boston Scott over him as I was considering early in the week would have won me the matchup. Indeed, Jeudy drew only 4 targets. He did catch all of him for 39 yards but I figured the biggest beneficiary of having Jeudy on the field would be my love pick at wide receiver, Courtland Sutton. Instead, Sutton was even less productive, hauling in 2 of his 4 targets producing only 40 yards and no touchdowns on the afternoon. It was an ugly offensive game in general as Denver edged out Washington 17-10 on the final seconds of the game.

As for Corey Davis, his health was already an issue at the time of our pick. David ended up being ruled out of the Week 8 matchup against Cincinnati and it’s possible the Bengals took this game way too lightly as they fell to the Jets in Mike White’s first career start. Regardless, Davis won’t count for our grade. The F for trusting Sutton will do. 

Tight End (A)

At tight end, it’s always a few names and some wild cards. My Week 8 love pick was a reminder that T.J. Hockensen is part of the “few names” club. Despite not scoring a touchdown, Hockensen is an every-week start for your lineup and at this point, there isn’t a solid argument to claim otherwise. He was coming into Week 8 back to his old ways as a target hog and I expected that to continue, playing behind against the Eagles. Indeed, the Lions got flat-out gut-punched but that didn’t stop Hockensen from getting action in the passing game. Despite playing a season-low 76% of the offensive snap share due to the score, he drew 11 targets (tied for a season-high), hauled in 10 receptions (season-high), and produced 89 yards. Despite not finding the end zone, he was the PPR TE1 of fantasy football in Week 8. Show this man some respect.

On the other hand, I read the Bengals-Jets game completely wrong. I was expecting a blowout, this time in favor of C.J. Uzomah’s team. I was expecting his usage to be down and the opportunity to score a touchdown to be minimal. Uzomah’s season box scores still stand as fairly touchdown-dependent; he’s a fantasy-elite player when he scores and a poor start when he’s not. Indeed, since I did not expect this game to be close, he did actually participate in a surprising 86% of the offensive snap share and he hauled in 4 of his 4 targets for 33 yards. It was his best performance in a game where he didn’t score a touchdown. However, he indeed did not find the end zone and he finished outside the top 15 tight ends in PPR scoring for Week 8. 

Check out our Week 9 Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Kicker | D/ST | PPR | Flex

Week 9 Loves & Hates

It was refreshing to finally read the running back position well; the vibes were semi-ruined by the Daniel Jones and Courtland Sutton duds but we have some more picks to make as we fade the nasty situations and ride the hot hands for some Week 9 loves and hates.


Love: Joe Burrow (CIN)

Yeah, this man lost to the Jets. It wasn’t all his fault, of course, as the Bengals allowed Mike White to drop 400 passing yards on them on their way to the upset win. However, Burrow was less than brilliant and squandered his fourth quarter chances of making a comeback and still winning the game as the heavy favorite. It’s time for some redemption; expect the Bengals to allow Burrow to fling with volume against a Browns group that ranks bottom 10 as a fantasy defense against quarterbacks and bottom 10 as a defense in explosive pass rate allowed.

To make matters even more reliant on him, the Browns rank #3 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense (but all the way down at #25 in pass DVOA), meaning that the air game is likely the way to beat them at the moment. Burrow is the only quarterback in the NFL right now with at least 2 passing touchdowns in each of the first 8 weeks of the season and that streak should continue headed into a Week 10 bye and start Burrow with confidence in all formats.

Hate: Dak Prescott (DAL)

On Monday Night Football in Week 8, with NFL Comeback Player of the Year frontrunner Dak Prescott as a game-time decision, backup quarterback Cooper Rush shocked the world and stepped up with a win on the road via a walk-off touchdown to Amari Cooper. The RushMania will likely be short-lived, however, as Prescott is trending towards a return in Week 9 at home. That doesn’t mean that Prescott is an auto-smash in your starting lineup. If you have a choice, I’d look elsewhere.

This season, the Broncos are the second-best fantasy defense in the NFL against quarterbacks. Only one team has allowed fewer passing touchdowns to quarterbacks than the Broncos and they proved how stingy they can be when they simply locked up Taylor Heinicke in Week 8. Instead of making Prescott showcase his ability in the air, the Cowboys could very well utilize a heavy run game via their two dynamic backs, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The Broncos rank #27 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense, allowing this kind of gameplan to be fully in play. Prescott’s floor is undeniable in an unpredictable game script and is far from an automatic QB1 this week. 

Running Back

Love: Boston Scott (PHI)

I have no shame in spamming takes if they’re correct. The objective is to get you to a 1-0 path every week, regardless of how tired a narrative may seem. Unless the Chargers prove to me otherwise, I am content with expecting them to be terrible at defending a run game. They rank #32 (dead-last in case that wasn’t clear) in rush DVOA as a defense and only two teams in the NFL allow more fantasy points per game to running backs than the Chargers. With Jalen Hurts posing a threat as a rushing quarterback, it is actually noteworthy that the Chargers have been slightly more effective and around league-average at defending quarterback rushes and they have not allowed a rushing touchdown by a quarterback all year long. 

Offensive snaps Rushing Receiving
Boston Scott 45% 12 carries, 60 yards, 2 TD 0 catches (1 target), 0 yards, 0 TD
Kenneth Gainwell 31% 13 carries, 27 yards, 0 TD 0 catches (0 targets), 0 yards, 0 TD
Jordan Howard 25% 12 carries, 57 yards, 2 TD 0 catches (0 targets), 0 yards, 0 TD

Table. Philadelphia Eagles running back splits, Week 8 vs. Detroit Lions

Expect the new primary groundsman for the Eagles to rack up those fantasy points instead. With Boston Scott clearly taking over that role last week, he’s one of the easiest starts of Week 9 at the running back position.

Hate: Damien Harris (NE)

What do we have here? Tua déjà vu? After picking Damien Harris, the New England backfield monster, as my Week 8 love at running back, I’m fading him in Week 9. For starters, the Panthers aren’t the best at defending the run but they do find a way to restrict fantasy points from them; the recipe is clear: just don’t allow them to be effective in the red zone. The Panthers have only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns this season to running backs and are the #2 fantasy defense against running backs this season.

Additionally, they are #6 in the NFL in pass DVOA as a defense, and adding former Patriot and Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore at cornerback will only help matters in that department, making it thoroughly difficult for the Patriots to produce offense efficiently and give Harris ample opportunity to score and boost his fantasy production. I would go so far as to bench Harris if you are even mildly deep at running back.

Wide Receiver

Love: Jarvis Landry (CLE)

One of the ickiest situations in the NFL right now, the status of Odell Beckham Jr. remains in limbo and he might have played his last game for the team. Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry moves into the #1 role for the Cleveland pass-catching group. In 8 games last season without Beckham in the lineup, Landry averaged 5.4 receptions, 59.1 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns. In Week 9, the Bengals will look to rebound from a brutal loss against Mike White‘s Jets and will likely have the beaten-up Browns playing from behind early on the road.

In this narrative, Landry should show up without Beckham and be a volume receiver; only one team this season has given up more receptions to wide receivers than the Bengals. I’m taking it to the next level with my auto-start of the week, Landry. I’m using my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week on him and have him recording a season-high in receptions and his first 100-yard game since Week 12 of last season. 

Hate: Marquez Callaway (NO)

It’s official that Michael Thomas is out for the year but the bad news for the Saints offense is way deeper than just that; starting quarterback Jameis Winston is going to be replaced, either by Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian, neither of which have notable experience throwing passes to Marquez Callaway. Additionally, Callaway will likely primarily be matched up out wide against breakout cornerback A.J. Terrell of the Atlanta Falcons, who is trending upwards in health to play in the Week 9 matchup against the Saints.

The secondary of the Falcons can be passed on effectively but against those other dudes, not Terrell. This season, Terrell is a top 10 cornerback in PFF grade and no other cornerback has allowed fewer yards per coverage snap than him. In 199 coverage snaps, he has still not allowed a touchdown in 2021 and that streak should continue against Callaway, who is a boom/bust candidate that relies on the big play anyway. Regardless of the quarterback, expect Tre’Quan Smith to be involved in the passing game amongst others who complement the elite talent of Alvin Kamara. There is no need to start Callaway in any fantasy format. 

Tight End

Love: Jared Cook (LAC)

The tight end position will seemingly never not be a scramble outside of an elite club of guys like T.J. Hockensen, who has earned his respect, especially after his Week 8 boom. Jared Cook is the prototypical touchdown-dependent veteran who you really don’t want to see as an every-week start. This is the week you do start him if you are streaming.

The Eagles are a bottom 6 fantasy defense against tight ends and no NFL team has allowed more touchdowns to tight ends than the Eagles this season. Cook knows a thing or two about scoring against this team as he found the end zone in his last matchup against Philadelphia (Week 14 of last season). Count on him to do it again and trust the 34-year-old as one of the rare streamers that has a pretty good shot to post a fantasy-serviceable performance via an appearance in the end zone. 

Hate: Tyler Higbee (LAR)

The Titans are generally not a team you want guarding pass-catchers for your life. They are around middle-of-the-pack in most statistical categories, including ranking #14 in pass DVOA as a defense. An interesting factoid, however: they are the #6-ranked fantasy defense against tight ends this season, likely because they are so busy getting their behinds whooped by other positions such as wide receiver. The Rams have several star options to catch passes from Matthew Stafford, including fantasy-elite Cooper Kupp and the still-trustworthy hands of Robert Woods. In fact, even Darrell Henderson has been targeted 11 times in the last 3 games and caught 3 touchdowns. Higbee falls to the bottom of the ladder in terms of options for the Rams to pass to. He is heavily touchdown-dependent as he only has one game over 6 targets this season and no games with more than 5 receptions. He will likely not reach either of those numbers in Week 9 and will end up being fantasy-irrelevant for the week. 

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