The Primer: Week 9 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)
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I made a bad lineup decision involving kickers a few weeks ago, and I’ve been (ahem) kicking myself ever since.
Yes, I play in home leagues where we use kickers. Sue me. This one is a 16-team league with a 24-round draft, no waivers. Every team is required to have two kickers, no more, no less.
I’d been rolling with Prater every week, and I was going to start him in a Week 6 road game against the Browns. Then a Twitter follower asked me a question about one of his Arizona receivers that Sunday morning: “Are you concerned about the weather in Cleveland?”
Uh, no, not really, but only because I was oblivious to the Cleveland weather forecast. I looked it up, and it was calling for 20-30 mph wind.
Hmm … 30 mph wind, huh? That kind of stiff breeze could push a field goal attempt wide, or possibly discourage a coach from trying a longer kick in the first place. I considered replacing Prater with my other kicker, Brandon McManus, whose Broncos were hosting the Raiders on a mild day in Denver. Prater and McManus were nearly even in scoring at that point, and the Broncos’ matchup seemed fine.
I made the switch and started McManus.
Prater kicked three field goals (including a 51-yarder) and four PATs. As I watched one of the field goals sail right down the middle, I noticed that the little red flags atop the uprights were barely moving. So much for 30 mph gusts. McManus kicked one field goal and three PATs that day. Prater outscored McManus 14-6. I lost my game by 4.5 points. Gah.
I generally don’t fret much about weather effects. Sure, sometimes weather has a significant impact on a game. A steady downpour, as we saw in the Bay Area for the Colts-49ers game in Week 7, can make for a slippery ball, wreaking havoc for the offenses. Heavy snow can actually help running backs, since ball carriers know where they’re going and defenders have to react to their movements on treacherous footing. On a snowy day in Buffalo in December 2017, the Bills’ LeSean McCoy and the Colts’ Frank Gore combined for 286 rushing yards in a 13-7 Bills’ victory. And yes, high winds can matter, too.
But often, dire weather forecasts turn out to be big nothing-burgers. I’ve played fantasy football for 30 years, and I’ve been guilty of overreacting to weather forecasts many times. Rarely have I been guilty of underreacting to ominous weather forecasts.
My buddy Chris Allen (@ChrisAllenFFWX) of Footballguys.com and 4for4.com has studied how weather impacts fantasy football and did a two-part series on it for 4for4 in 2018. I threw a hypothetical scenario at Chris a few days ago:
Let’s say you’re trying to decide on a starting quarterback and have two options. Quarterback A is a pocket passer who’s projected to score 20 fantasy points in neutral conditions, but the forecast says he’s going to be playing in a wind game. Quarterback B is projected for 18 points, and he’s playing in a dome. Assuming it’s dry weather, what sort of wind speed would it take for you to bench Quarterback A for Quarterback B?
Chris said 20-25 mph would be his approximate pivot point. With win speeds of less than 20 mph, he’d stick with Quarterback A. With wind speeds over 25 mph, he’d switch to Quarterback B.
I agree with Chris that wind speeds under 20 mph are basically irrelevant. Test it for yourself on a breezy day. Grab a football and go outside with a friend or family member. Stand about 25 yards apart. Does the wind make it difficult to make an accurate throw to your partner?
Since I answer a couple hundred start/sit questions every Sunday, weather questions come with the territory. Some people seem perplexed or even offended when I downplay their concern about a forecast of light rain or 15-20 mph winds.
But I do understand the concern. Part of it is about control. We want to control the fate of our fantasy teams, and our desire for control often causes us to overmanage.
This doesn’t just happen with weather. It also happens with defensive matchups. A fantasy manager benches Player A for Player B because Player B has a better defensive matchup, even though Player A is far more talented. That sort of move makes us feel like we’re managing our fates, and I understand the desire for control in a game where so much is out of our hands.
Take the Derrick Henry injury. On Sunday morning, the vast majority of Henry stakeholders were feeling great about their teams. By noon Monday, they were in despair. In what other strategy game could your chances of victory be so swiftly crushed by a stroke of bad luck?
Imagine you’re playing chess and in the midst of a well-planned opening when all of a sudden your queen is yanked off the board. What the …?
“Sorry, mate. The queen has a Lisfranc injury. Took a wrong step at a beheading.”
So I completely understand the impulse to manage – to overmanage – based on weather effects, matchups, minor injuries, and other factors that may or may not actually matter.
We want control.
But fantasy football has a way of wresting it out of our hands.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pack for a short trip to Phoenix. It’ll be great to get out of the Midwestern chill for a few days and enjoy some nice weather.
– Pat Fitzmaurice
Las Vegas Raiders vs New York Giants
Derek Carr: It’s hard out here for a non-running quarterback. Carr has topped 300 yards in 5 of 7 starts, and he’s thrown two TD passes in 6 of 7 starts, yet he stands at QB15 in fantasy points per game. In a neutral matchup against the Giants, Carr ranks QB11. Even though he doesn’t run, he’s pretty appealing at $5,900 on DraftKings, particularly in cash games, where he provides a solid yet inexpensive floor.
Daniel Jones: Jones hasn’t been running much lately, accumulating only 53 rushing yards over his last four games. Couple that with his mediocre passing numbers, and he’s been the QB27 since Week 5. It’s the rushing potential that lands Jones at QB12 in this week’s rankings, but there are only six or seven attractive QB options for fantasy this week, so it’s not as if Jones’ high-end QB2 ranking represents any real confidence in him. His $5,600 price tag on DraftKings also makes him appealing, especially in GPPs, where his low floor isn’t as much of a concern.
Josh Jacobs: Although he’s averaging a mere 3.4 yards per carry, Jacobs has scored five touchdowns in five games and hasn’t been a complete zero in the passing game, catching 14-110-0 on 16 targets. Jacobs has a solid Week 9 matchup against a Giants defense that’s giving up 21.9 fantasy points per game to running backs. He’s a mid-range RB2 in a bye-heavy week, but he’s a bit too pricey ($6,200) on DraftKings for my tastes.
Devontae Booker: Continuing to fill in for the injured Saquon Barkley, Booker posted season highs in both rushing and receiving against the Chiefs in Week 8, with 15-60-0 on the ground and 5-65-0 through the air. In his three-game stint as a starter, Booker has been the RB18 in fantasy scoring, and he ranks RB19 this week against a middling Raiders run defense.
Hunter Renfrow: Henry Ruggs faces a felony DUI charge in Las Vegas after a two-car crash that left a woman dead. As gauche and tactless as it may seem to discuss the effect Ruggs’ absence will have on the fantasy value of his teammates, we’re compelled to do that here for our readers. The Raiders already had a fairly skinny target tree with a small handful of principal pass catchers. Renfrow has seen no fewer than five and no more than nine targets in every game this season, and his target floor and ceiling both figure to rise. He lands at WR32 this week and WR38 in the rest-of-season rankings.
Bryan Edwards: As noted in the Hunter Renfrow entry above, Henry Ruggs is facing a felony DUI charge in Las Vegas. Edwards’ average depth of target this season is only 6.7 yards, and he’s not exceptionally fast, so he’s probably not going to replace Ruggs as the Raiders’ designated field stretcher. But after averaging 4.4 targets over the Raiders’ first seven games, Edwards figures to get a significant target bump, pushing him from the fringes of fantasy relevance into a position of potential importance. He ranks WR50 this week due to a potentially tricky matchup with Giants WR James Bradbury, but Edwards figures to be in line for a usage bump that could substantially elevate his ceiling.
Kadarius Toney: After missing Week 7 with an ankle injury, Toney banged up his thumb in Week 8, but the injury isn’t considered serious. He caught 4 of 5 targets for 26 yards against the Chiefs on Monday night and also completed a 19-yard pass to Sterling Shepard on a gadget play. It wasn’t quite the outburst that Toney stakeholders were hoping to see from the rookie against a bad Chiefs defense, but there’s still a lot to be excited about here. Toney profiles as a midrange WR3 this week against the Raiders. I love him as a GPP play at only $5,200 on DraftKings.
Darius Slayton: With Sterling Shepard unlikely to play this week due to a quad injury, Slayton figures to see a lot of action against the Raiders. He played a season-high 52 snaps against the Chiefs in Week 8 but was held without a catch on two targets. Slayton is a vertical receiver, and the Raiders’ cover-3 defense hasn’t been giving up many big plays through the air. In what could be a tough matchup, Slayton ranks as the WR55 this week. His bargain-bin $4,600 price tag on DraftKings makes him a potential dart throw in GPPs.
Darren Waller: After seeing 19 targets in the Raiders’ season opener, Waller has averaged 6.8 targets in the five games since. His target numbers figure to soar now that WR Henry Ruggs is facing legal difficulties after a fatal car crash in Las Vegas. Although he hasn’t cleared 65 yards in a game since Week 1, Waller checks in as the TE2 this week and is a fine option in DraftKings at $6,200.
Evan Engram: Engram has a soft matchup this weekend against a Raiders defense that’s yielding 11.7 fantasy points per game to tight ends, but he didn’t really take advantage of a good matchup against the Chiefs in Week 7. Oh sure, he scored his first touchdown of the season, but he caught 3 of 4 targets and finished with 15 yards. Engram ranks TE13 this week based mostly on matchup, but he’s always an uncomfortable play in season-long leagues.
Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints
Matt Ryan: In 2018, Ryan averaged 24.3 fantasy points per game. His per-game averages in the three years since: 21.3, 19.3, and 17.1. Granted, Ryan lost WR Julio Jones in the offseason and is now playing without WR Calvin Ridley, but the overall trajectory is still worrisome. Ryan is averaging only 6.7 yards per pass attempt this season, his worst performance in that category since 2010. This week, Ryan runs into a Saints pass defense that ranks second in opponent passer rating and fifth in DVOA. The Saints seemed to have Ryan’s number last season when they held him to a 50% completion percentage, 505 yards, and one touchdown in two games. Ryan is the QB19 this week and not a consideration in DraftKings contests.
Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian: Jameis Winston is done for the year with a torn ACL, and it’s unclear who’s going to start in his place this week. Taysom Hill has been recovering from a concussion, and Saints head coach Sean Payton says Hill is “on schedule” for Week 9. When Hill started in place of the injured Drew Brees from Week 11 to Week 14 last year, he was the QB6 over that stretch, averaging 21.6 fantasy points per game, thanks largely to 209 rushing yards and four TD runs. I tentatively have Hill ranked QB9 this week against a Falcons defense that was shredded by ultra-mobile Eagles QB Jalen Hurts back in Week 1. If Hill isn’t able to return and Siemian makes the start, Siemian will rank outside the top 25 at QB even though he acquitted himself well in his relief appearance against the Buccaneers last week.
Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis: As Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis recently noted, Patterson has accounted for 43.8% of the Falcons’ touchdowns, the highest rate for any player in the league. He’s also averaging 85.9 yards from scrimmage per game, so it’s not as if Patterson’s immense fantasy value can be attributed to good fortune with touchdowns. Patterson has a tough matchup against a good Saints defense this weekend, but he still ranks RB11/WR11. Despite the tough matchup, Patterson is a terrific DraftKings value at $6,300. Patterson’s unexpected success has been a blow to Davis investors, but drafting a 28-year-old career backup based on expected rushing volume was a risky move. Davis hasn’t topped 72 yards from scrimmage in any game this season and has scored only two touchdowns. He’s a low-end RB3 this week.
Alvin Kamara: Kamara has averaged 21 carries over his last five games, but his rushing load might start to wane now that the Saints have Mark Ingram back on the roster. The trade for Ingram last week was probably an admission that Kamara’s heavy workload wasn’t tenable and was putting his well-being at risk. It’s probably a good thing for Kamara investors, too, since the star running back’s preservation is certainly in their best interests. A slight reduction in carries is less of a concern than the possibility of reduced target volume if the Saints turn to Taysom Hill at quarterback now that Jameis Winston is out for the season. When Hill started four in place of the injured Drew Brees last season, Kamara had just 3-7-0 receiving on six targets in the first three of those games before catching 7-44-0 on 10 targets in Hill’s fourth start. Whatever mild concerns we might have about Kamara’s touch volume, he’s the overall RB2 this week and a potential cornerstone of DraftKings cash game lineups at $8,200.
Russell Gage: When it was learned that Calvin Ridley would be inactive against the Panthers in Week 8, quite a few fantasy managers plugged Gage into their lineups, thinking he’d be the de facto No. 1 receiver for Atlanta. After all, Gage had produced a 4-67-1 stat line against the Dolphins in Week 7. Gage played 36 snaps in Week 8 but didn’t see a single target. His career average of 6.7 yards per target suggests that he simply isn’t very good. The Falcons’ opponent this week, the Saints, have given up a league-high 31.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, but I have Gage ranked WR52 this week, and you’d have to be pretty desperate to want to use him.
Tajae Sharpe: Is it possible that Sharpe, not Russell Gage, will be Atlanta’s No. 1 wide receiver while Calvin Ridley is away? Sharpe has played 99 total snaps in the two games Ridley has missed this season, catching 9-111 on 11 targets in those games. Sharpe is the WR55 this week, and he’s an interesting DraftKings supersaver option against a Saints defense that’s giving up 31.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
Marquez Callaway: The Saints averaged 25.2 pass attempts in the six full games QB Jameis Winston started this season. How many pass attempts will New Orleans average if it’s Taysom Hill at quarterback for the rest of the season? Callaway averages a healthy 14.9 yards per catch and 8.6 yards per target, but he hasn’t caught more than four balls in a game, and lack of target volume will be an even bigger concern with Hill at quarterback. Callaway is the only Saints receiver who might be worth using in season-long leagues this week, and he’s still no more than a high-end WR5.
Kyle Pitts: It seemed as if Pitts was set up to smash last week with Calvin Ridley declared inactive, but the Panthers gave him a lot of defensive attention and held Pitts to just 2-13-0 on six targets. Pitts had been red-hot, with 16-282-1 in Weeks 6-7. Will Ridley’s absence hurt because it might lead to amplified defensive attention, or will it help because it might lead to a target bump? Pitts is the TE3, and of course, you’re starting him in season-long leagues, but it will be fascinating to see how he fares in Week 9.
Adam Trautman: Trautman has seen a slight uptick in usage lately, with 7-83-0 on 11 targets over his last three games. He’s not playable yet, and the switch from Jameis Winson to Taysom Hill/Trevor Siemian might snuff out whatever fantasy value he had, but Trautman is a talented young player whose name is worth keeping in your waiver-wire Rolodex. (Look it up, kids.)
Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Josh Allen: Allen’s last three weekly fantasy finishes: QB4, QB1, QB1. He’s averaged 31.9 fantasy points per game since Week 5 and now leads all quarterbacks with 27.0 FPPG. And now Allen gets a plum matchup against a Jacksonville pass defense that ranks last in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric and last in opponent passer rating. The Jaguars have allowed foes to complete 74.0% of their passes and average 8.9 yards per pass attempt. This is an absolute smash spot for Allen, the overall QB1 in the Week 9 rankings. He’s a pricey $8,200 on DraftKings this week, but it’s hard to argue that he’s not worth it.
PRISTINE MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Each week, we’ll pick a matchup of the week, presented by Pristine Auction. For Week 9, Josh Allen is our Pristine Matchup of the Week.
Trevor Lawrence: The rookie had turned in three decent performances leading up to the Jaguars’ Week 7 bye, but Lawrence was shaky against Seattle in Week 8, completing 32 of 54 passes for 238 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 54-32 loss. Lawrence is unplayable this week against a punishing Buffalo defense that is allowing only 5.6 yards per pass attempt and has given up five TD passes in six games.
Zack Moss and Devin Singletary: As bad as the Jacksonville pass defense has been this season, opponents are running against the Jaguars on 46% of their offensive snaps, which is well above the league average. That’s probably because the Jaguars’ opponents are so often in positive game scripts, and that figures to be the case again this week when the 5-2 Bills visit the Jags. Jacksonville’s run defense ranks a respectable 14th in DVOA and is holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry. Moss comes into this game in a mini-slump, with 16-43-0 rushing over his last two games. He’s actually been more productive as a pass-catcher over that span, with 8-54-0 receiving on 11 targets. Singletary has been even colder, with under 30 rushing yards in three consecutive games. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2. Maybe the prospect of heavy run volume can bust the Buffalo backs out of their slumps. Moss is the RB18 this week, Singletary the RB28.
James Robinson and Carlos Hyde: Robinson is considered day to day with a heel injury. If he’s able to go, he’ll face a Bills defense that’s giving up 13.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, the second-lowest total in the league. Assuming that Robinson isn’t on any sort of pitch count, he’ll be a back-end RB1 or high-end RB2. He’s a full fade on DraftKings at an overly expensive $6,400. Hyde is generally considered a one-dimensional inside banger, though he actually had 6-40-0 receiving against the Seahawks last Sunday. He’s not playable if Robinson is active. If Robinson is out, Hyde will slide up into low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 territory solely on the promise of heavy touch volume.
Stefon Diggs: It’s hard to believe that Diggs has topped hit 100 yards only once this season. A Week 9 matchup against the Jaguars could be a get-right spot for Diggs. In their last two games, the Jaguars have allowed double-digit catches to Jaylen Waddle and Tyler Lockett. Jacksonville has been damaged by big plays in the passing game throughout the season, allowing 34 receptions of 20 or more yards. Diggs is a midrange WR1 this week and a rock-solid DraftKings value at $7,700.
Emmanuel Sanders: Through the first six weeks of the season, Sanders was the WR16 in fantasy scoring (0.5 PPR). He came out of a Week 7 bye and was promptly skunked in a 26-11 win over the Dolphins, failing to catch any of his four targets. It would seem to be just a bump in the road for Sanders, who’s been playing well and enjoying a fine season at age 34. He ranks as a high-end WR3 in a good matchup against the Jaguars. Sanders will set you back $5,600 on DraftKings, making him a solid if unspectacular value.
Cole Beasley: Beasley has been blazing-hot, with 17-198-1 on 22 targets over his last two games. He gets a nice individual matchup this week against Jaguars slot corner Tre Herndon, who’s allowing 0.59 fantasy points per route run against him, according to PFF. Beasley is a midrange WR3 this week and a solid DraftKings value at $5,400.
Marvin Jones: Jones has been held to 35 or fewer yards in three of his last four games. We thought the season-ending injury sustained by Jaguars WR D.J. Chark in Week 4 might spike the weekly target counts for Jones. He’s averaged 7.7 targets over the three games since the Chark injury – not bad, but also not the target bonanza we were expecting. Jones finds himself in a tough spot this week against a Bills defense that’s allowing 14.8 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. That’s the lowest total in the league by a wide margin. Jones is the WR30 this week, but his floor and ceiling are lowered in this difficult matchup.
Laviska Shenault: Jamal Agnew is now playing the hybrid WR/RB role that Shenault once played, which is both good and bad news for Shenault’s stakeholders. On one hand, the usage never really suited Shenault, who wasn’t quick enough to play the role that Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer used to have Percy Harvin play at the University of Florida. But that role at least guaranteed Shenault targets every week. As more of a traditional outside receiver, Shenault has seen four or fewer targets in two of his last three games. Viska still hasn’t scored a touchdown this season, and he’s topped 58 receiving yards only once. He’s the WR49 this week.
Jamal Agnew: As noted above in the Laviska Shenault blurb, Agnew is playing a hybrid slot receiver role, and he’s well-suited for it with his sub-4.4 speed and slippery moves. A former cornerback who’s also returned kicks (and had a 102-yard kickoff return for a TD earlier this season), Agnew has caught 17-157-1 on 25 targets over the last three weeks. The now-fantasy-relevant Agnew ranks WR57 because of a difficult matchup with Buffalo, but he should be rostered in all leagues with 12 or more teams.
Tommy Sweeney: Dawson Knox is expected to miss at least one more game with a broken hand, leaving Sweeney as the Bills’ top tight end. Sweeney played 82% of Buffalo’s offensive snaps in Week 8 and had 3-30-4 on four targets. As bad as the Jaguars’ pass defense has been, Sweeney is a viable streaming option at tight end this week, checking at TE21 in the rankings.
Dan Arnold: Arnold has now played four games with his new team after being shipped over from the Panthers, and he continues to make a good impression. Arnold had season highs in targets (10), receptions (8), and receiving yards (68) last week against the Seahawks. He’ll have a tougher matchup this week against a Buffalo defense that’s giving up 5.5 fantasy points per game to tight ends. Arnold is a midrange TE2.