TE Notes: Jimmy Graham is back to being Drew Brees’ go-to receiver. … Of Jason Witten’s tight-end record 18 receptions last week, 15 went for significant gains. Witten’s 12.8 targets per game over the past four weeks are second only to Reggie Wayne’s 13. From Evan Silva’s brilliant Matchups column: “I don't think Antonio Gates has lost a step, but there's no doubt that defenses key up to take him away and he's struggling to get open.” Gates should be matched up Thursday night against Chiefs SS Eric Berry, who has struggled mightily in coverage this season.Celek gets a bump for the shootout potential in New Orleans. … Heath Miller continues to lead the NFL in red-zone targets. … Greg Olsen has a dream matchup against a Redskins defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. His targets will go up if Brandon LaFell’s concussion keeps him out of the lineup. … According to Football Outsiders, no defense shuts down tight ends better than Buffalo’s. Surprising, I know, but Daniels has a tougher matchup than one might expect. Jermaine Gresham has a plus matchup against a Broncos defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends. … Jermichael Finley pronounced himself nearly 100 percent, which should mean his routes will no longer be limited. He does have a tough matchup against a Cardinals team that defends tight ends efficiently. … Jared Cook can exploit the middle of the Bears defense -- if Matt Hasselbeck has time to throw. … Pitta isn’t a strong play against a Browns defense that has shut down tight ends this season. … Dwayne Allen should see an increase in snaps and targets with Coby Fleener (shoulder) out of the lineup.Fasano isn’t a recommended spot start. No defense is more stingy against fantasy tight ends than the Colts. … You might have better luck hoping for a deep ball down the seam to Kellen Davis against a Titans defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and ranks dead last in tight end defense, per Football Outsiders.
Sunday Update: Greg Olsen up with Brandon LaFell (concussion) out. Jacob Tamme down slightly after Virgil Green played more snaps in Week 8.Week 9 Defense/Special Teams
Week 9 Kickers
Last updated 12:05 ET on 11/4/12
If an embattled Michael Vick is “ready to make a playoff run,” he picked the right opponent to get back on track. Opposing passers have torched the Saints for an average of 336 passing yards, three passing scores, and 30 fantasy points per game over the last four. Over the past month, the lowest fantasy output versus New Orleans was Philip Rivers’ sixth-place fantasy finish (25 points) in Week 5. Still adjusting to Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme, the Saints don’t effectively rush the passer, lack team speed, consistently take poor angles, and have hemorrhaged big plays due to miscommunication. New Orleans’ defense ranks dead last in the metrics of Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus. The secondary has surrendered 101 points per game to No. 1 receivers, 63 yards to No. 2 receivers, 50 yards to tight ends and 50 more yards through the air to running backs. In fantasy football terms that translates to the most points allowed to quarterbacks and wide receivers and the second most points allowed to running backs. In addition to allowing the most yards in NFL history through seven games, the Saints have also become the first team to surrender 400+ yards in seven consecutive games. Whether you come from the Greatest Generation or the Trophy Generation, you have never seen a more inept defense. Week 9 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: The only quarterback with a longer streak than Peyton Manning’s four straight games of 300+ yards and 3+ TDs is Steve Young (1998). No quarterback in history has matched Manning’s 75.4 completion rate, 1,289 yards, 12:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and 127.9 passer rating over a four-game stretch. He faces a Bengals pass defense that ranks 28th in pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. Suddenly an AFC favorite, the Broncos’ remaining schedule features opponents with a combined record of 22-42.Aaron Rodgers missed Jordy Nelson last week. On plays where the QB holds the ball 4.5 seconds or more, James Jones and Randall Cobb are the NFL’s two leading receivers this season. They aren’t getting open easily, forcing Rodgers to improvise. On a positive note, Rodgers is the first quarterback in history with 20+ touchdown passes through eight games in consecutive seasons. It wasn’t just Robert Griffin III’s wide receivers that let him down last week with nine drops (including a sure touchdown to Leonard Hankerson). Tight end Logan Paulsen was running in quicksand on a perfectly arched bomb that fell just out of his reach. The play may have gone for a long score if Fred Davis was healthy. ...Matthew Stafford has lost a league-leading 315 yards in the air on dropped passes. Anecdotal evidence suggests he’s also lost a handful of touchdowns to drops. His mechanics were much improved in tearing apart a strong Seahawks defense last week. If you believe Cam Newton can adjust his own sloppy mechanics (his footwork was a mess at Chicago), there may not be a better QB buy in Week 9. No quarterback has faced a tougher pass defense schedule (ATL, SEA, DAL, CHI) than Newton over the past month. Statistical regression argues that Newton is due to hit on a few long touchdowns. He’s one of just two quarterbacks with at least 15 throws of 20+ yards and no deep scores.Ben Roethlisberger sported an adjusted accuracy percentage of 87.1% in sloppy conditions versus the Redskins last week. He’s a legit MVP candidate. … Andy Dalton’s raw numbers look good, but he’s struggled versus the blitz and on third downs this year. The Broncos rank fifth in pass defense, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. … The Titans are on pace to become one of four teams in history to allow 500+ points in a season. If Jay Cutler can stop himself from locking onto Brandon Marshall, this is the week to break out.Rivers has morphed into a check-down artist without vertical weapon Vincent Jackson. … Andrew Luck has shown a Big Ben-like ability to escape pressure and make plays down the field, but he’s facing a red-hot Dolphins defense that has held its last three opponents to an average of 12 points. … No quarterback is throwing deep as often as Russell Wilson, who showed veteran savvy in commanding the offense and decision-making at Detroit last week. … Although he went through a few rough stretches, last week was the best I’ve seen Blaine Gabbert throw. He made a series of pin-point throws that showed off his arm talent. … Matt Hasselbeck and Christian Ponder both square off against shutdown pass defenses this week.
Sunday Update: Tannehill down amid reports that he's starting but on a short leash with Matt Moore waiting in the bullpen.Week 9 Running Backs
RB Notes: Matchups don’t come any better than the No. 1 fantasy back facing the league’s least effective run defense. Arian Foster has a good chance to top his season-high of 152 yards versus the Bills. … LeSean McCoy’s matchup isn’t far behind. The Saints are second only to the Bills in fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. … The Browns have shown improvement in run defense, but Rice has averaged 127 scrimmage yards against them in their last five meetings.Peterson leads the league in rushing yards (775), rushing yards per game (96.9), yards after contact (479), forced missed tackles (28), and runs of 20+ yards (8). What’s incredible is that he’s doing that without benefit of outside runs. … Second only to Peterson in yards and yards after contact, Lynch faces a Vikings defense that allowed 156 rushing yards per game over the past three weeks.McGahee is sitting sixth in fantasy points per game and a surprising eighth in running back receptions as he enters a Week 9 matchup against a Bengals defense allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing backs. … Norv Turner promised a more conservative offense, which has resulted in 26 Ryan Mathews touches in each of the past two games. … Averaging 23 touches per over the past three games, Forte draws a Titans defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs.Trent Richardson forced an impressive seven missed tackles after his coach called him out last week. … The last time Jamaal Charles was held under 10 touches in a game, the Chiefs force-fed him the ball 92 times over the next three weeks. … Doug Martin is No. 1 in fantasy points over the past three weeks, but this week’s matchup is tougher than it looks at first glance. The Raiders rank third in Pro Football Focus’ run defense metrics and have shut down the ground attacks of the Chiefs, Jags, and Falcons. Bradshaw’s effectiveness has predictably waned while playing through a foot injury and ceding goal-line work to Andre Brown. … Stewart remains a recommended “buy” after managing season-highs in touches (21) and scrimmage yards (80) while adding three broken tackles and 29 yards after contact against the Bears’ shut-down defense. … McFadden isn’t just struggling between the 20’s, he also sports a per-carry average of 1.86 yards on 22 red-zone totes. Only the 49ers have been tougher against the run than the Bucs this season.It turns out Leshoure missed practice Wednesday because he became a new father. If coach Jim Schwartz is to believed, he’s perfectly healthy. We have no reason to believe Leshoure won’t be the lead back in an attractive matchup at Jacksonville. … We still prefer C.J. Spiller to Fred Jackson due to the former’s big-play ability, which has been the most dangerous in the NFL this season. … The Cowboys are playing it cautiously with DeMarco Murray, suggesting he will miss one more week. Fantasy tease Felix Jones will draw the start against a Falcons defense allowing the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing backs.Chris Johnson is the NFL’s rushing leader over the past five weeks with 550 yards. CBS recently clocked Johnson at a faster clip than RGIII’s 4.1 running start forty in the Vikings game. Although his ability to sustain a rushing attack without benefit of long runs was a positive sign last week, no one should be surprised if his streak of success hits a dead end versus the Monsters of the Midway on Sunday. … Jonathan Dwyer (quad) is tentatively expected to return for Thursday’s practice and handle early-down work at the Giants after becoming the first Steelers back since Willie Parker to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Alex Green’s per-carry average of 2.9 is less than Adrian Peterson’s 3.17 average after contact. Even he admits he’s had trouble reading what little holes the offensive line has opened the past three weeks. … La’Rod Stephens-Howling fell flat against the 49ers, as predicted. He’s not an NFL-caliber lead back. … Donald Brown and Vick Ballard are splitting carries equally until one distances himself from the other.
Sunday Update: Pierre Thomas/Mark Ingram/Travaris Cadet up slightly. Donald Brown down, Vick Ballard up amid reports that Ballard is starting after Brown's surgically-repaired knee flared up Saturday. Justin Forsett up slightly for garbage-time work in a potential blowout.
Week 9 Wide Receivers
WR Notes: We discussed Brandon Lloyd’s touchdown regression last week, and he responded with two scores. This week’s obvious candidate for regression to the mean is Calvin Johnson, whose receptions and receiving yards are nearly identical to his first eight weeks of the 2011 season. The touchdowns are going to come in bunches for the NFL’s premier red-zone weapon and skill-position player. A.J. Green is on pace for 10+ red-zone scores this season. Since 2008, only Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Visanthe Shiancoe and Rob Gronkowski have accomplished the feat. … Julio Jones toyed with an overmatched Nnamdi Asomugha to the tune of 4.1 yards per route run. Demaryius Thomas was even more impressive, torching the Saints for a whopping 4.89 yards per on 28 routes. As a reference point, Andre Johnson’s 2.59 yards per route run led the league over the previous three seasons.Cam Newton just missed Steve Smith on a trio of red-zone passes in what could have been another monster performance for 89 at Chicago. Smith is a must-start fantasy play against a Redskins defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing receivers. … With the best suddenness in the league, Harvin has 140 more yards after the catch than the next closest receiver. Reggie Wayne, slot receiver? Under Bruce Arians, Wayne has been in the slot on 63 percent of his routes this season compared to just 20 percent from 2008-2011. It’s working. Wayne leads all receivers in targets, yards and receptions per game. … Eric Decker has scored in four consecutive games, tying Victor Cruz for the second-longest streak this year.Mike Wallace had a nice bounce-back game on a sloppy field versus the Redskins. He made a spectacular one-handed grab at the pylon only to be ruled just out of bounds. … Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are both candidates for big games against a Saints defense that has been scorched for long plays by Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Vincent Jackson, and Robert Meachem of late. The Packers have had trouble covering Larry Fitzgerald in the past, but the Cardinals persistent offensive line woes are killing his production. … Cutting through the static, Dez Bryant is sixth in fantasy points over the past three weeks. … Denarius Moore has emerged as a legit No. 1 receiver. You don’t see deep threats averaging 8.5 targets per game and 6.5 yards after the catch. Torrey Smith has a date with shadow corner Joe Haden. … At this point, it would be a surprise if Jordy Nelson plays through the hamstring injury with a bye week upcoming. … The difference between Wes Welker and Lance Moore? Welker makes plays after the catch. Only 10.4 percent of Moore’s 433 yards have come after the catch, which is the lowest figure of all full-time receivers.Over the early-season injury hump, Titus Young and Sidney Rice should be good for WR3 value the rest of the way. … Kenny Britt lost two big plays to questionable penalties last week. He has a tough matchup against Tim Jennings and the Bears this week. … Leonard Hankerson has been a major disappointment as Pierre Garcon’s replacement. He just doesn’t move well. I pointed out last week that Cecil Shorts’ long touchdown came via busted coverage. It’s only fair to point out this week that he lost a long reception at Green Bay when replay showed that he used the ground to help secure the ball. Showing an impressive rapport with Blaine Gabbert, Shorts has emerged as a heavily targeted go-to receiver the past two weeks. Shorts has averaged an impressive 2.70 yards per route run while the rest of the Jacksonville receivers are below the league average of 1.58.
Sunday Update: Jordy Nelson ON, Randall Cobb/James Jones down slightly. Calvin Johnson (knee), Dez Bryant (hip), Brian Hartline down. Aldrick Robinson up, Leonard Hankerson down after it was determined that Robinson will start.
Week 9 Tight Ends