Arguably, the most frustrating thing in fantasy football is seeing someone in your starting lineup struggle that week. Therefore, the logic behind this article is simple – identify fantasy football lineup landmines.
These are players you’re leaning towards starting this week but could end up being a landmine that blows up and destroys your starting lineup, potentially costing you your matchup.
Brace yourself and take cover. These six players could blow up in your face this week.
Fantasy Football Lineup Landmines: Week 9
Following his top-five finish in 2022, Smith has been a bust this season. The veteran is the QB23, averaging 13.6 fantasy points per game. Despite having two touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time this year, Smith has scored under 14 fantasy points in every game since Week 4. Furthermore, he has only one game this year with over 15.5 fantasy points (Week 2 vs. Detroit). His completion rate over expectation has dropped by 1.6% from 2022 to 2023, while his off-target throw rate is up 1.7% (per Fantasy Points Data). More importantly, Smith’s matchup this week is awful.
Last week, the Baltimore Ravens surrendered two passing touchdowns and a rushing score to Joshua Dobbs in their easy win over the Arizona Cardinals. However, both passing touchdowns came late in the fourth quarter against prevent coverage. More importantly, the Ravens have held quarterbacks to only 11.3 fantasy points per game, the fewest in the NFL despite last week’s performance. They gave up only four passing touchdowns over the first seven weeks, including zero in half their games this season. Fantasy players should check the waiver wire for Derek Carr and avoid starting Smith.
Fantasy players have to be disappointed with Pollard. The former Memphis star was a popular late first or early second-round pick. Yet he is only the RB18 for the year, averaging 12.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, the veteran has struggled lately. Pollard is the RB34 over the past five weeks, averaging only 8.5 fantasy points per game and 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. However, I have the star running back on my buy-low list because of his appealing upcoming schedule. But first, he has an ugly matchup on Sunday against the NFC East division leaders.
The Philadelphia Eagles have arguably the top-run defense in the league. They have held running backs to only 12 fantasy points per game, the fewest in the NFL. Running backs have totaled more than 64 rushing yards only once against Philadelphia this season. According to Fantasy Points Data, they have allowed the sixth-lowest yards after contact per rushing attempt. Opposing teams have accepted that the only way to beat the Eagles is in the passing game. Therefore, temper your expectations for Pollard this week if you must start him.
Many had high hopes for Piece and the Houston rushing attack last week. While they have struggled this season, the Texans had a perfect matchup against the Carolina Panthers. The NFC South bottom dwellers had given up at least two rushing touchdowns in all but one game before last week’s matchup against Houston, surrendering 134.3 yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 31.5 half-point PPR fantasy points per game to running backs. Yet, Pierce had two rushing touchdowns stolen by teammates, averaged only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, and scored 4.6 fantasy points in the loss.
Unfortunately, fantasy players can’t trust Pierce moving forward. Furthermore, the second-year running back is borderline droppable after last week’s outing. More importantly, Pierce won’t have a rebound performance in Week 9. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have held running backs to only 14.6 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, the fourth-fewest in the NFL. They join the Atlanta Falcons as the only two teams not to surrender a rushing touchdown to running backs this season. Hopefully, Pierce falls in the end zone and saves his fantasy performance. Otherwise, fantasy players likely get single-digit fantasy points for the sixth time this year.
After being the WR6, averaging 17.7 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, over the first two weeks, Smith has been a fantasy bust. Over the past six weeks, the former Alabama star has been the WR42, averaging 8.4 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he scored fewer than seven fantasy points in all but the two games against the Washington Commanders since Week 2. Many might think Smith broke out of his funk last week, scoring 19.4 fantasy points against Washington. However, without the wide-open blown coverage 38-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the receiver would have scored only 9.1 fantasy points.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have held wide receivers to only 21.4 fantasy points per game, the second-fewest in the NFL. They have surrendered fewer than 21 fantasy points in half their games this season. Furthermore, wide receivers have totaled only four receiving touchdowns against the Cowboys, the third-fewest in the league. Since Week 2, A.J. Brown has averaged 11.2 targets per game, seeing 13 or more in half the contests. By comparison, Smith has averaged seven targets per game since Week 2. Unless Dallas’ secondary plays as poorly as Washington’s did last week, the former Alabama star will struggle.
Brown started the year playing well. He was the WR14 over the first five weeks, averaging 12.7 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, scoring 13.1 or more in all but the Week 1 matchup. However, the veteran wide receiver has struggled lately. Despite averaging nine targets per game over the past three weeks, Brown has been the WR42, averaging only eight fantasy points per contest. More importantly, his catchable target rate dropped from 71.4% over the first five weeks to 65.4% over the past three (per Fantasy Points Data).
While Kyler Murray should make his season debut soon, the rookie Clayton Tune will make his first career start on Sunday. Unfortunately, it’s against an elite Cleveland Browns defense. They have held wide receivers to 23.3 fantasy points per game, the fourth-fewest in the NFL. Furthermore, the Browns have surrendered five receiving touchdowns to wide receivers, the seventh-fewest this season. While they have struggled the past two weeks, Cleveland’s defense gets to face a fifth-round rookie making his first career start. Avoid starting any Cardinals this week.
The tight end position has been frustrating, like always, this year. However, a few tight ends are turning into fantasy difference-makers. Unfortunately, Njoku isn’t one of those players. Last week, the former Miami Hurricane had his best performance of the season, totaling four receptions for 77 receiving yards, a touchdown, and 15.7 half-point PPR fantasy points. Yet, he is still only the TE16, averaging 6.8 fantasy points per game for the year. More importantly, Njoku needed an 18-yard receiving score and a 41-yard catch to avoid scoring fewer than five fantasy points for the fifth time this season.
Last week’s success was exciting for fantasy players. However, the former Miami star has a difficult matchup against an Arizona Cardinal defense that has shut down tight ends this year. They have surrendered only 6.4 fantasy points per game to the position, the second-fewest in the NFL. Furthermore, Arizona has given up only one receiving touchdown to tight ends this season, allowing Mark Andrews to score last week. Njoku won’t find the end zone for the second consecutive game and will again fail to score more than five fantasy points.