Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 9
Whew. After a hectic week in American politics, it was nice to stare at something other than a red-and-blue map of the country for a change. Week 9 treated us to some high-scoring matchups, and for as long as we’ve got a season, I’ll be here on Sundays to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. I try to focus on the numbers, but I’ll also break down some of the significant injuries of the day as well.
As always, check back on Monday morning for my take on the afternoon games and Sunday Night Football!
Story #1: Christian McCaffrey was in elite form in his first game back.
McCaffrey totaled 151 scrimmage yards on 28 touches, 10 of which were receptions, and he scored twice. It’s safe to say that those who took him first overall were rewarded handsomely for their patience.
Christian McCaffrey with a TD in his first game back 👏
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 8, 2020
That said, it’s not all good news for McCaffrey managers — the star running back got hurt again late in the game.
This appears to be the play Christian McCaffrey was injured. Looks like his right shoulder/collarbone area. He came back in for one play, then left again on the final drive. pic.twitter.com/z7W4p0SUnL
— Joe Person (@josephperson) November 8, 2020
It looks like an upper-body injury (some have speculated that it’s his rib), so he didn’t aggravate the ankle injury that he suffered back in Week 2. He’ll have until next Sunday to get healthy. McCaffrey managers should have a back-up plan in place for next week, but I’m optimistic that he won’t miss a bunch of time with this injury.
Story #2: Dalvin Cook totaled 252 scrimmage yards and scored twice.
Wow. In most scoring formats, Dalvin Cook has just totaled 40-plus points, and that’s almost an auto-win for his managers. He got 206 of those yards on the ground, and he added 46 on just a pair of receptions.
DALVIN COOK 70-YARD TD 🚨
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 8, 2020
In an increasingly pass-happy NFL, Cook’s last two weeks might be the best fantasy hot streak for a running back that we’ll see for a while. Cook has a challenging matchup with the Bears next week, but he’s not someone you can pivot away from even when the going gets rough.
Cook was ranked as FootballOutsiders’ best running back coming into Week 9, and it’s hard to see him falling a spot after this incredible performance.
Story #3-7: Injuries.
Football is a violent game, and unfortunately, that means we’ll lose players to injury each week. Aside from McCaffrey, a few other fantasy-relevant players went down: Kyle Allen, David Montgomery, Laviska Shenault, David Johnson, and Jack Doyle.
#3: Allen suffered a nasty ankle injury. The early diagnosis was a dislocated ankle and small fracture, and it looked eerily similar to the one Dak Prescott suffered. Managers in 2QB leagues should plan to roll out a replacement moving forward, and Alex Smith would be a smart pickup from waivers.
Allen’s injury doesn’t have much of an effect on the rest of the offense. Ron Rivera will stick to his scheme regardless of who is under center, and Smith looked pretty good after Allen exited. He totaled 325 yards and completed a solid 75% of his passes, so there’s no reason to be worried about guys like Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin.
Montgomery’s status will be something to monitor. The Bears will take on the Vikings next week, and their defense was giving up the 13th-most points per game to the position heading into Week 9. That’s not great, but it’s not a smash spot for this backfield. Cordarrelle Patterson got the most work behind Montgomery, as he ran the ball three times and caught four passes. He makes a decent waiver pickup if you don’t think Montgomery will clear the concussion protocol in time.
#5: Shenault went down on a first-quarter hamstring injury. He was initially ruled questionable to return, but the Jaguars later announced that he wouldn’t return to the game. Before exiting, Shenault had caught just one pass for a loss of a yard.
Without Shenault, D.J. Chark led this team in targets (14), which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Chris Conley saw a larger share of targets (8) than usual, and if Shenault is forced to miss time, he’d be a decent boom-or-bust WR4.
#6: Johnson suffered a concussion and was ruled out of the Week 9 matchup. The Texan had run for 16 yards on two carries before his departure, and he was targeted once in the passing game.
Without David Johnson, Duke Johnson got the bulk of the work for Houston. He carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards, and he added 32 yards on four catches. If David is forced to miss time, Duke would be a great RB2/flex play for next week’s tilt against the Browns.
#7: Doyle also got concussed on Sunday. He hadn’t caught either of his two targets before his departure.
While Doyle isn’t really fantasy-relevant anymore, his availability directly affects Mo Alie-Cox and Trey Burton. The Colts will play again on Thursday night, so don’t expect Doyle to clear the concussion protocol in time. That will give both Burton and Alie-Cox a small boost — Burton out-targeted Alie-Cox (4-3), and he’s my preferred streamer for Week 10.
Story #8: D.K. Metcalf exploded against Tre’Davious White.
I faded Metcalf because of his tough matchup, but the six-foot-three, 228-pound Metcalf bullied five-foot-eleven, 192-pound White. He caught seven passes for 108 yards and a score, and White couldn’t do much about it.
Would you just LOOK AT DK Metcalf?
That's Tre'Davious White.
Metcalf is so strong he just ran THROUGH the coverage! pic.twitter.com/OSRzqku2tn
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 8, 2020
I guess I’m not surprised given the size differential, but Metcalf’s strong showing revealed two things. First, he’s close to matchup-proof — it’ll take a taller or stronger corner than White to stop him. Second, White is vulnerable to bigger receivers, especially when they have elite quarterbacks throwing to them.
The Bills will take on the Cardinals next week, and while DeAndre Hopkins isn’t as big as Metcalf (he’s six-foot-one and 214 pounds), Metcalf’s success should be reassuring to Hopkins managers.
Story #9: John Brown looked fantastic for the first time since Week 2.
Brown opened the year with a pair of 16-point games, but then he got hurt in Week 3, and he had scored a total of 8.8 points before this week’s game. But he returned to form in this one, and he caught eight passes for 99 yards on 11 targets — good enough for 13.9 points in half-PPR.
To be fair, it’s easy to look good against Seattle. Their secondary ranks league-worst against opposing wide receivers, and entering Week 9, they were giving up 47 half-PPR points per game. I had called Brown the WR1B to Stefon Diggs’ WR1A earlier in the year, and if Brown continues to get used like this, then that call looks like the correct one.
I would keep holding onto Brown heading into Buffalo’s Week 10 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, but I wouldn’t start him if I had better options. He’s a very low-end WR3.
Story #10: Jordan Wilkins out-snapped Jonathan Taylor again.
Yikes. Taylor didn’t do too much against the Colts this week — he totaled just eight touches for 34 yards, but he saved his fantasy day with a touchdown. Wilkins got 13 touches, 11 carries, and two receptions, and he totaled 38 yards on them.
Colts final HB snap count
Jordan Wilkins 23
Nyheim Hines 22
Jonathan Taylor 22
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 8, 2020
It’s not what Taylor managers wanted to see, and they don’t have the “he was banged-up!” cop-out this week. I wrote about this backfield last week, and I think my characterization holds — these shifts in the workload do more to harm Taylor and Hines’ fantasy prospects than they do to boost Wilkins’. Taylor remains the best fantasy starter in this offense, but he doesn’t have as much upside as he used to.
Story #11: Jake Luton looked like the strong-arm quarterback the Jaguars said he was.
Jay Gruden, Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator, had a lot of praise for Luton’s strength, touch, and vision last week. Gruden said he wanted to put the rookie out there to see what he could do, and boy did Luton deliver.
DJ CHARK 73 YARDS TO THE HOUSE 🦈 pic.twitter.com/cFAFSQsVn2
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) November 8, 2020
The sixth-rounder tossed a 73-yard touchdown pass on his second-ever NFL attempt. The Jaguars have a roster that’s well-constructed for his skill set, as D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Chris Conley are all excellent deep threats. They’ll have an extra bit of pop with Luton under center, and the rookie looks like a viable option in 2QB/Superflex leagues.
The Jaguars will play the Packers in Week 10, so Jaire Alexander‘s lockdown coverage could create problems for Chark (or whoever he ends up covering) and Luton. Then Jacksonville will get the Steelers in Week 11, which is another ugly matchup. Fortunately, they have a juicy series of matchups from Weeks 12 to 14: the Browns, Vikings, and Titans. They’re all bottom-12 defenses against quarterbacks, and two of them (the Browns and Vikings) are bottom-eight.
Story #12: J.D. McKissic out-gained Antonio Gibson.
McKissic continues to look like a viable flex option in Washington. He totaled 82 scrimmage yards to Gibson’s 55, and he played on considerably more snaps.
Washington final HB snap count
J.D. McKissic 45
Antonio Gibson 25
Peyton Barber 1
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 8, 2020
McKissic outscored Gibson in PPR formats, as he made up for his lack of a touchdown by catching nine passes (three more than Gibson). While there was some speculation that Gibson would be in a workhorse role after he got 20 carries against the Cowboys, I feel like it was unjustified — we just happened to see what the Football Team would do in a winning game script. They played from behind on Sunday, so we got some reassurance that McKissic still will have a large role in negative game scripts.
Washington will get Detroit’s vulnerable defense next week. They were giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to the position entering Week 9, and they just allowed Dalvin Cook to total 252 yards and two scores. Both McKissic and Gibson will be viable RB2s in the matchup.
Story #13: Kyler Murray threw three touchdowns and ran for one more.
Murray played exceptionally well against the Dolphins. He completed 80.7% of his passes for 283 yards and three scores, and he added 106 rushing yards and another score on the ground. That type of production will lock someone in as a QB1 — potentially the QB1 — in fantasy football.
Kyler Murray: QB1 and RB1
300+ Total Yards
4 Total TDs
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 8, 2020
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why the Cardinals felt comfortable moving on from 2018 first-rounder Josh Rosen in favor of the explosive Murray. Kudos to their front office for taking that risk.
The other thing to note about Murray’s performance: his effect on the backfield. Many analysts, myself included, expected big things from Chase Edmonds this week, especially since Miami ranked 30th in explosive runs surrendered. But Edmonds totaled just 88 yards on 28 touches, and he didn’t find the end zone. That sounds like a Kenyan Drake stat line, doesn’t it?
Because of Murray’s rushing skill, especially close to the goal line, we should adjust our expectations for this backfield. Scoring plays will be rarer than on other teams (and rarer than they were last year when Drake scored four times in one game), but that doesn’t make Drake and Edmonds bad fantasy options. It just caps their ceiling.
Stories #14-5: Injuries II.
#14: Williams was leading the Dolphins in receiving before he left with a foot injury. His X-rays came back negative, so it’s likely nothing more than a sprain.
Foot sprains have the potential to be multi-week injuries, so you’ll need to monitor Williams’ status moving forward. His eventual return could be bad news for DeVante Parker, as Williams is currently out-targeting Parker with Tua Tagovailoa under center (10-9), and most of Parker’s seven Week 9 targets came after Williams’ departure.
#15: Jackson got hurt while blocking on the first play, and though he eventually returned for a few plays, he ended up with a goose-egg in the box score. Kalen Ballage exploded for 84 yards and a score. He ran the ball 15 times and caught two passes with Jackson sidelined.
The good news for Jackson managers is that the injury wasn’t serious. The Chargers felt comfortable enough to put him back in for a play, and though he didn’t touch the ball, he should be fine for next week.
The bad news is that the Chargers went with the hot hand, Ballage. While we knew Joshua Kelley wasn’t a serious threat to Jackson’s workload without Austin Ekeler, Ballage might be. I would leave Ballage on waivers and Jackson on your bench for next week’s game against the Dolphins — let’s see if time makes this situation a little clearer.
Story #16: James Conner disappeared against the Cowboys.
Many analysts expected Conner to go off in Dallas — he ranked as the RB4 in our expert consensus rankings, and some analysts had him as high the RB2. Yet Conner touched the ball just eleven times for 20 yards.
So what happened? The Steelers had to play from behind, and that meant lots of passing plays. Ben Roethlisberger attempted 42 passes, and Mason Rudolph attempted three more, so their total passing attempts (45) far exceeded their average passing attempts per game (36.5).
Conner should bounce back in a friendlier game script. While this game proved that Steelers haven’t forgotten to play down to their opponents, they should be more effective at home against the Bengals in Week 10. Conner is a safe starting option against Cincinnati’s defense.
Story #17: Jordan Howard led the Dolphins in rushing attempts.
With both Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida sidelined, analysts weren’t quite sure what to expect out of Miami’s backfield. It seemed like a two-way split between Howard and Patrick Laird was imminent, but that was not to be. Howard led the way with 10 touches, rookie Salvon Ahmed got seven, and Laird touched the ball just twice. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got seven rushing attempts of his own.
Despite Howard’s team-leading share of the workload, he didn’t do much on his 10 carries, as he earned just 19 yards and a touchdown. He’s not someone to consider adding from waivers at this point, even though Gaskin will be out for at least two more weeks.
Instead, pick up DeAndre Washington. After getting traded from the Chiefs, Washington will be eligible to play the Chargers in Week 10. Los Angeles’ defense hasn’t been able to stop much this season, and if Washington gets rolled out as the lead back, he should be in for a decent day against a former divisional foe. While Washington won’t have much floor, I’m cautiously optimistic about his upside.
Story #18: The Buccaneers imploded on Sunday Night Football.
Let’s jump back a few years real quick. If I told you in 2018 that Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette would be playing on the same team in two years, you’d probably think I was talking about the Pro Bowl, not the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You’d also probably expect them to score more than three points in a game, too, but here we are.
Tampa Bay did not play well, and their 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints was determined by halftime. Brady threw three picks in the loss, and no one — not Evans, not Brown, and not Godwin — posted redeemable fantasy numbers.
While I expect a rebound from the Buccaneers, Brady won’t be able to make all of these guys fantasy-relevant each week. I would strongly advise that you move on from your assets in this offense. That said, it would be best to wait for whichever player you’re invested in to have a big game before you sell.
At least this awful game gave us footage of Jameis Winston eating another W.
Winston is eating Ws post-game, omgpic.twitter.com/hrE7MCv4KJ
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 9, 2020
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