I don’t think the universe hates my brother, but it definitely hates his fantasy team. I’ve been playing in a fantasy league with Luke for five years now. He’s come close a few times, but has never gotten over the hump. And when I say over the hump, I mean he’s never even made the playoffs.
This isn’t to say my brother is bad at fantasy football. Quite the contrary. He’s a smart drafter and has fielded some truly impressive teams over the years. But as you and I both know, fantasy is as much about luck as it is about making the right decisions. That’s never been Luke’s strong suit. If you’re at the casino and you see my brother put $10 on black, put it all on red. He is George Costanza selling latex. He is Michael Scott screaming in the annex. He is all of us.
Let me walk you through the nightmare known as Luke Pantuosco’s fantasy existence. In a rare peace offering from the fantasy gods, Luke was granted the first overall pick in this year’s draft (we play in a 10-team PPR league with my dad, my uncle and a few of my cousins). He did what any sensible human being would do in that situation by drafting Cardinals stud David Johnson. Later my brother added to his backfield riches by selecting Danny Woodhead in the eighth round. Neither of those players have seen the field since Week 1.
It gets worse. Luke had the intuition to draft Deshaun Watson, a move with the potential to save his fantasy season. After giving Luke weeks of false hope, the electric Texans rookie stomped on his hopes and dreams by tearing his ACL at practice last week. Back to the drawing board.
Then Week 9 hit. Still wounded by the loss of his budding superstar, Luke turned to Jameis Winston at QB. He lasted two quarters before reinjuring his shoulder and handing the reigns to Ryan Fitzpatrick. And if that wasn’t enough heartbreak for one week, Luke was hit by another asteroid when Zach Ertz, the best fantasy tight end in the league this year, was given the week off against Denver. Even with good games from Doug Baldwin, Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate, the week ended in another gut-wrenching defeat.
I wish I could say this isn’t an annual phenomenon for my brother, but it absolutely is. Last year his first three picks in the Pantuosco League were Adrian Peterson (played three games), Keenan Allen (tore his ACL in Week 1) and Brandon Marshall (became bad at football). A year before that, I knocked my brother out of the playoffs by beating him in Week 13, which still wasn’t as bad as the year before when he lost his last four to miss the playoffs by one measly game.
But isn’t that what fantasy is all about? It’s fun when everything goes according to plan, but how often does that really happen? Life is full of frustrations and fantasy mirrors that reality. Whether it’s Dalvin Cook getting hurt or drafting during a torrential storm, it’s always something. Maybe it’s time to embrace the weekly dumpster fire of fantasy football and let it all fall to pieces. I know when my brother finally catches a break and wins the league, and it will happen someday, all the years of wasted first-round picks and Week 13 debacles will make it so much sweeter.
Now for the Power Rankings, where the surging Eagles are on top for the third week in a row.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 1
After going his first seven games without a touchdown, Jay Ajayi finally found the end zone in his Eagles debut Sunday versus Denver. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement also had a big Week 9, lighting up the Broncos for 66 yards (51 rushing, 15 receiving) and three touchdowns. Sunday marked Alshon Jeffery’s first multi-touchdown game since Week 13 of 2014. Translation: it’s finally sunny in Philadelphia.
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2. New England Patriots
Last Week: 2
Thought James White’s miraculous three-touchdown game in Super Bowl LI was just a fluke? Think again. White has easily been the most productive member of New England’s backfield this year, ranking second among running backs with 43 catches and third in receiving yards (365) behind only Christian McCaffrey (406) and Chris Thompson (453). Did Tom Brady enjoy his bye week? You bet.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 4
The Steelers have won three straight and get a plush matchup against the Colts coming off the bye week. What else? Oh yeah—Antonio Brown leads the league in receiving yards by over 100 while workhorse Le’Veon Bell has averaged 116 rushing yards over his last five contests. Remember JuJu Smith-Schuster’s stolen bike saga a few weeks ago? He won’t have to worry about that anymore now that he has his driver’s license.
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4. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 5
Rather than showing the Giants mercy, a well-rested Jared Goff marched into the Meadowlands and threw for a career-high four touchdowns Sunday in a 51-17 rout. His 311 yards were also a career-high. Goff isn’t the only one feeling the Sean McVay effect in Los Angeles. Todd Gurley upped his season touchdown total to 10 with a pair of end-zone visits in Week 9. The Rams lead the league in point differential at 108 and have already scored more points this season (263) than they did all of last year (224).
5. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 7
Minnesota’s success is all the more remarkable when you consider the team’s recent carousel at quarterback. Case Keenum has the job for now, but he’ll be on a short leash now that Teddy Bridgewater is finally back from a dislocated knee. Meanwhile Sam Bradford is headed for season-ending I.R. after undergoing a knee scope on Tuesday. With Green Bay plummeting, Detroit exhibiting its usual brand of mediocrity and the Bears doing all they can to avoid throwing the ball, it may not matter who the division-leading Vikings hand the ball to down the stretch.
6. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 8
Some things just go together. Salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly … and Alvin Kamara and the New Orleans Saints. Seriously, it’s like the government had him engineered in a lab for the specific purpose of installing him in Sean Payton’s offense. Needless to say, Kamara was the man in Week 9, contributing 152 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns in a win over Tampa Bay. Even the Saints’ defense is on the rise with rookie Marshon Lattimore holding PFF’s top grade among cornerbacks.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 9
Here’s what a typical week entails for Ezekiel Elliott: go to court, have your suspension reinstated, appeal that decision in a different court, delay the suspension further and rush for 90 yards and a touchdown. Rinse and repeat. I assume this is all an elaborate scheme to prevent Darren McFadden from ever playing another NFL down. Cole Beasley has scored a combined four touchdowns over his last four games. He’s averaged 19.8 yards during that stretch. Put that on a Snapple cap.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 3
Oh no, Kareem Hunt has been exposed! The rookie was held to just nine carries against Dallas while losing most of the passing-down work to Charcandrick West. Sunday’s loss was the Chiefs’ third in four games, though it still made for great television thank to the masterpiece now being hailed as the “Hill Mary.” That game also featured Alex Smith’s first interception of the season.
9. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 6
Weird that Blair Walsh, who is famous for one of the most egregious misses in playoff history (against the Seahawks, no less), would cost Seattle by shanking three field goals against the Redskins in Week 9. Russell Wilson, a quarterback, and Chris Carson, who hasn’t played since Week 4, have been the Seahawks’ top two rushers this year. That’s not something to brag about.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 13
Doug Marrone must be doing something right because the Jags are off to their best start since 2007. Marqise Lee has gone for at least 70 yards in each of his last three games including Sunday’s win over Cincinnati. Lee’s touchdown against the Bengals was his first of 2017. Rookie Dede Westbrook was expected to debut in Week 9 but was kept out as a precaution coming off core muscle surgery. Not a fan of picture day, are you Leonard?
11. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 11
All year fantasy owners have been waiting for Christian McCaffrey to take control of Carolina’s backfield committee. In Week 9, it finally happened. McCaffrey rushed for a career-high 66 yards while Jonathan Stewart coughed up a pair of fumbles in a win over the Falcons. In the first game of the post-Kelvin Benjamin Era, Devin Funchess impressed with a season-high 86 yards on five catches. Cam Newton must not be very familiar with James Cameron’s filmography.
12. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 10
LeSean McCoy was nowhere to be found in Week 9, struggling to just 25 yards on 12 carries one week after exploding for a season-high 151 yards in a win over Oakland. A change of scenery has done wonders for Deonte Thompson. He’s averaged 64.3 yards in his three games with Buffalo after averaging just 25 in five outings for Chicago earlier this year. Second-round rookie Zay Jones scored his first career touchdown in Thursday night’s loss to the Jets but injured his knee because Buffalo can’t have nice things.
13. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 15
Rob Kelley paced the Redskins with two touchdowns in Week 9, though it came on just 18 yards rushing. He was also sacrificed to the football gods by Kirk Cousins. Josh Doctson took on a larger role with Jamison Crowder sidelined, delivering a career-high 59 yards while setting up the game-winning touchdown in Sunday’s win at Seattle.
14. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 16
For all the talk of Marcus Mariota’s struggles, Tennessee is in pretty good shape at the halfway point, sitting at 5-3 on the heels of a three-game winning streak. Kevin Byard has quietly developed into one of the league’s best young safeties. Five of his league-leading six interceptions have come in the last two games. Corey Davis only caught two passes in his return from a hamstring injury, but played his full allotment of snaps (39-of-52). If he’s still on the waiver wire in your league, well you know what to do.
15. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 17
Zero—that’s how many times the Lions punted in Monday night’s win over the Packers. Monday also marked a milestone for Matthew Stafford, who became the fourth-youngest quarterback to reach 200 career touchdown passes. Marvin Jones has caught fire, totaling 331 yards and three touchdowns over his last three games. His five touchdowns this year are more than he had all of last season.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 12
The slumping Falcons have now dropped four of their last five. It’s been slim pickings for Devonta Freeman, who has averaged a meager 11 carries throughout his four-game touchdown drought. At least Julio Jones is rounding into form. He went for a season-high 118 yards in Sunday’s loss to Carolina.
17. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 24
Maybe Marshawn Lynch should get suspended more often. Coming off a one-game ban for shoving a referee, Lynch enjoyed his best outing of the season, rushing for 57 yards and two touchdowns against Miami. Marshall Newhouse also had fun running the ball in Sunday’s victory, though he should probably stick to his day job as an offensive lineman. Jared Cook paced the Raiders with 126 yards in Week 9, his most in a game since Week 1 of 2013.
18. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 19
Rookie Mike Williams is beginning to see more run (career-high 22 snaps in Week 8), but so far that hasn’t translated to the fantasy realm. The Chargers need to make up their mind once and for all about Hunter Henry’s role, because I'm tired of the weekly guessing game. Is Henry the player who’s averaged nearly seven targets per game in Weeks 5-7, or the dude who sunk your fantasy team with a pair of goose eggs in Weeks 1 and 3? Or can he be both?
19. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 18
Jeremy Maclin turned back the clock with a vintage effort on Sunday, torching Tennessee for 98 yards on eight catches. The 98 yards were his most in a game since Week 13 of 2015. Fantasy owners were psyched to play Alex Collins after his breakout Week 8 (143 yards from scrimmage), so naturally he tanked against the Titans with just 43 yards on 13 carries. Week 9 wasn’t the Ravens’ best work, but at least we got a cool fake punt out of it.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 27
The Cardinals climbed back to .500 on the strength of Adrian Peterson’s 159 rushing yards Sunday at San Francisco. Peterson’s 37 carries in that game were a career-high. Larry Fitzgerald was still productive with Drew Stanton under center for Week 9 (five catches for 70 yards) but the rest of Arizona’s passing game shriveled up like those house plants you were supposed to water when your aunt was out of town.
21. New York Jets
Last Week: 26
There’s something about Thursday night games against Buffalo that brings out the best in Matt Forte. A year after gashing the Bills for three touchdowns on TNF, Forte was at it again with two scores in Week 9. Austin Seferian-Jenkins still offers mild streaming appeal at a weak fantasy position, but it’s getting tough to justify playing a guy who averages 6.7 yards per catch. With seven games to go, the overachieving Jets already have as many wins as they did all of last season.
22. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 21
You know you’ve entered a dangerous realm when a Brett Hundley rushing touchdown in garbage time can be the difference between winning and losing your fantasy week. I guess that’s where I’m at these days. It looked like Aaron Jones was ready to leave Ty Montgomery in the dust, until Week 9 happened. Game script called for the Packers to go with TyMont down the stretch as Jones was limited to just one touch in the second half.
23. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 20
The Vance Joseph Era is not off to a promising start. The Broncos have been outscored 124-52 during their four-game losing streak. Brock Osweiler was so atrocious in Week 9 that the Internet is spreading conspiracy theories about it. Yet, somehow he remains the Broncos’ best option at quarterback. The Roman Empire is falling fast but if you’re into the whole “glass half full” thing, at least you can take solace in the end of Demaryius Thomas’ 13-game touchdown drought.
24. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 23
Just when you thought 2017 couldn’t get any weirder, Jay Cutler is heating up. He’s posted an absurd 120.4 quarterback rating over his last two starts with five touchdowns and only one interception during that span. Jarvis Landry’s contract year has gone swimmingly (I swear that’s not a dolphin pun). He’s scored a touchdown in four of his last five games and ranks second in the NFL in catches behind Antonio Brown.
25. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 25
Mitchell Trubisky had the bye week to rest his throwing arm, not that he needed it. He’s averaged 20 passing attempts per game since taking over as the Bears’ starter in Week 5. Meanwhile Jordan Howard has averaged a whopping 25.8 over his last four games but has not scored a touchdown during that span. No team has thrown for fewer passing yards per game (157.5) than Chicago this year.
26. Houston Texans
Last Week: 14
Seriously, the universe couldn’t give Houston a full 24 hours to celebrate winning the World Series before ripping Deshaun Watson’s knee to shreds? Going against the league’s second-worst pass defense, Tom Savage completed under 50 percent of his passes for 219 yards in Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis. His fourth-quarter touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins was the first of his career.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 22
Man, remind me never to get on A.J. Green’s bad side. He went full Andre Johnson on Jalen Ramsey in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville. First-round pick John Ross was a healthy scratch for that game while fellow rookie Josh Malone played 31-of-39 snaps. Speaking of rookies, Joe Mixon ranks 48th out of 50 qualified rushers in yards per carry (2.9) this season.
28. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 30
The Andrew Luck charade ended last week when the Colts made the long overdue decision to place their franchise quarterback on season-ending injured reserve. T.Y. Hilton entered Week 9 with just 61 yards in his previous three games combined but flipped the switch by snagging five catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Is this not the craftiest touchdown you’ve ever seen? Well played, sir.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 28
How much bad news can a team get in one week? The Buccaneers must be going for the record. Franchise quarterback Jameis Winston is out with a bad shoulder while All-Pro receiver Mike Evans earned himself a one-game suspension for letting his frustration get the best of him in Week 9. Meanwhile Doug Martin sunk to a new low in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans, totaling seven yards on eight carries. It all adds up to the Bucs’ worst start since 2014.
30. New York Giants
Last Week: 29
How bleak are things in East Rutherford right now? At 1-7, Giants coach Ben McAdoo has considered pulling the plug on Eli Manning to see what he has in third-round rookie Davis Webb. If Manning sits out, it would be his first absence since 2004. Amidst the chaos, Evan Engram has put together an impressive rookie season, ranking eighth among tight ends in catches (34) and seventh in receiving yards (412). He’s been particularly unstoppable over his last three games, averaging 70.7 yards with three touchdowns during that stretch.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
Pierre Garcon is done for the year with a neck injury, leaving the already depleted Niners without their best wide receiver. Garcon’s absence may give the tanking 49ers more incentive to sit Jimmy Garoppolo, who is still learning the ins and outs of Kyle Shanahan’s playbook. Will somebody somewhere just let this guy play already?
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
It was an eventful bye week in Cleveland. After botching the A.J. McCarron trade as only the Browns could (imagine selling the farm for Andy Dalton’s backup), former NFL receiving yards leader Josh Gordon was granted reinstatement, putting him on track for a Week 13 return. Corey Coleman (I.R., hand) should be back even sooner. He resumed practicing on Monday and could return when first eligible in Week 11.
Biggest Jump: Cardinals, Raiders
Biggest Drop: Texans