Week 9 is where I typically start to look at a few things differently. Weather begins to become a bigger factor for outdoor stadium teams. We saw a preview of this in the Atlanta vs. New York (Jets) game on Sunday. A slick ball led to seven fumbles in that game as well as a different approach to how both teams operate their offense. Snow, rain and maybe most importantly wind, all affect fantasy football in both the passing and running game. While that tends to be a more important factor in selecting your offense, your defense can be as affected. Snow games might have 30 passing attempts between both teams if it’s bad. Your high volume tackling cornerback or sack artist pass rusher is useless in that game. Similarly, while there will be an increased reliance on your linebackers to make tackles, the number of plays run by both teams decreases as the play clock is rarely stopped in those games. Take a quick look at the weather forecast when your fantasy players are playing outside. In addition to that, some leagues have their trading deadline coming up soon. Pay attention to those details to ensure that you are exploring every avenue to make your team better. Week 9 is the second week of the season with six teams on bye with Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles (Chargers), Minnesota, New England and Pittsburgh. Make your moves accordingly.
Kwon Alexander led last week’s recommendations with 10 total tackles against the Panthers in week 8. Patrick Onwuasor scored 3 solo tackles on 67% usage on the Thursday blowout against the Dolphins. His reduction in snaps week over week likely has more to do with Miami attempting to throw themselves back into the game than a diminishing role overall. Antonio Morrison was solid against the Bengals with 8 total tackles on 79% usage. He and Jon Bostic continue to jockey for position as the top IDP fantasy producer from the Colts every week. DeVondre Campbell played every snap against the Jets who provided 30 rushes plus running back receptions but underperformed with 4 total tackles. MLB Deion Jones had his best-tackling outing of the year with 9 solo tackles and 2 assists.
Martrell Spaight/Will Compton WAS LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Starter Mason Foster was placed on injured reserve with a nagging labrum injury prior to Washington’s game against the Cowboys in week 8. While the former Buccaneer was unhappy with the move, it does open up opportunity alongside regular starter Zach Brown. 2015 5th round pick Martrell Spaight stepped into a starting role briefly in week 3 when Foster was out and responded with 9 total tackles and a fumble recovery on 90% usage. In week 8, the Redskins did not commit to one linebacker. Rather, they used Spaight on 56% of Washington’s defensive snaps and 2016 starter Will Compton played 43% of the snaps. The tackle heavy game saw Spaight score 5 solo tackles and 2 assists whereas Compton logged 3 solo tackles and 4 assists. That’s decent production on its own but if one player were to secure that job on their own, that’s LB1 production. In fairness, the Cowboys are not going to be running over the Redskins every week but Mason Foster was a legitimate starter for many fantasy teams this year before his injury knocked him out. A full-time replacement for him would be a quality addition to any fantasy roster. Spaight would be my guess as to who I’d stash if I could only pick one. The Seahawks in week 9 are a decent matchup but the time to grab these guys is now before the value gets too high.
Mychal Kendricks PHI LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2
While Mychal Kendricks was on this list recently, MLB Jordan Hicks tore his Achilles tendon in week 7 and is done for the season. Nigel Bradham likely gets a tick upwards in value but Kendricks looks to be elevated to a weekly option provided he remains healthy. Joe Walker is the true MLB replacement but only saw 44% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in their week 8 win against the 49ers. Kendricks played 79% of the snaps and likely rotated out as a precaution due to a recent hamstring injury. He logged 6 solo tackles, 1 assist, a pass defensed and a sack in that game. The Broncos visit Philadelphia in week 9 and pose a decent matchup for Eagles linebackers. The top scoring opposing linebackers are averaging over 16 fantasy points against the Broncos over their last four games. Maybe more appealing than that is the fact that three of the next four Eagles’ opponents after their bye week are in the top 7 in league rushing. Give Kendricks a look if he’s available in your league.
Brock Coyle SFO LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
With Reuben Foster once again missing time, this time a ribs injury, there was an opening in the 49ers linebacking corps. Rumor was that Eric Reid was being moved to linebacker and Ray-Ray Armstrong might have handled middle linebacker with Reid at weakside linebacker. Unfortunately, Jimmie Ward broke his arm which necessitated Reid’s return to free safety for a few snaps. He only logged 47% of the 49ers snaps. Ray-Ray Armstrong also seems to have lost his shine with coaches as he played only 51% of the 49ers snaps despite a lack of healthy, experienced linebackers available. On the contrary, Brock Coyle played every snap for San Francisco and scored 7 total tackles doing so. The 49ers are a mess this season and like Nick Bellore last season, a healthy MLB that plays every down on a bad team can be a recipe for fantasy success. Coyle could be an impact player for your fantasy team as long as he sees the field. The Cardinals visit in week 9 which figures to be a mess of a game given the Cardinals’ injury woes.
Elandon Roberts NEP LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB3
With Dont’a Hightower’s season-ending pectoral injury coming to light last week, Elandon Roberts figured to factor into the lineup in week 8 alongside every down linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Roberts was on the field for 71% of the Patriots snaps and managed to log 5 solo tackles and an assist against the Chargers. The Patriots are on bye this week but news of Hightower’s injury might spur bidding so the time to act might be now. After the bye, New England visits the Broncos and then the Raiders. Roberts shouldn’t encounter much challenge for snaps and could yield some decent returns for bye week coverage or flex defender spots.
Defensive linemen plays
Both Pittsburgh defensive ends I recommended paid off for owners that were able to get them in their lineups. Cameron Heyward scored 3 solo tackles and a sack and Tyson Alualu scored 3 total tackles, a pass defensed and a sack against the Lions on the Sunday nighter. Michael Johnson only mustered 24 snaps before exiting his game against the Colts with a back injury. He logged only one solo tackle. In comparison, Carlos Dunlap scored 3 solo tackles, a sack and a pick six so the opportunity was there to make plays. Chris McCain failed to get a sack on Tom Brady as the Patriots were able to get quick throws off. He failed to avoid Joey Bosa however.
Henry Anderson IND DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
After six weeks of games for the Colts, Henry Anderson was at an 8 total tackles and a 56% usage rate. But over his last two games, Anderson has been used at a 75% rate and has turned those opportunities into 8 solo tackles, 3 assists, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Word is that Anderson has become a movable piece within the Colts defense that is being used to exploit certain looks. If that’s the case, then you can expect this kind of production to be more commonplace. The Texans host the Colts in week 9 and are coming off of a loss to the Seahawks in which they gave up 5 sacks. In addition, Duane Brown (starting left tackle) was also traded to the Seahawks. They managed without him during his holdout but you can’t say that they won’t miss his talent.
Leger Douzable SFO DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
With Arik Armstead already out and then Solomon Thomas going down with a knee injury early in Week 8, Leger Douzable was called upon to step into significant snaps for the 49ers. The former Jet scored 5 solo tackles and 2 sacks on 81% usage against the Eagles. It’s not a lock that Douzable’s high usage continues given the 49ers situation as well as the mix of available players they have but given what has been established, Douzable represents a decent play. The Cardinals will be hosting the 49ers in week 9 and backup QB Drew Stanton will likely get the reigns. It wouldn’t surprise me if the mistake-prone Stanton gets into trouble and Douzable is one of the benefactors.
Sneaky play of the week – Vinny Curry/Derek Barnett PHI DE
I realize that this isn’t the first time I’ve recommended Curry in this column this year but the matchup is pretty good for the former Marshall standout as well as the former Volunteer, Derek Barnett. Curry and Barnett played almost the same snap count (~50%) against the 49ers in week 8. Denver visits Philadelphia in week 9 and are currently averaging 3.7 sacks given up per game, good for third worst in the league. GIven how Denver has struggled on offense and how well the Eagles has played this year, there is a decent chance that both Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox as well as Barnett/Curry.
Defensive back plays
Sean Davis had a quality outing against the Lions with 6 total tackles and 2 passes defensed while playing every snap but one. Matthew Stafford threw 45 passes in that game which led to the higher output. Adrian Amos proved to be the better addition to fantasy rosters than his running mate Eddie Jackson. Amos scored 6 solo tackles and had a key forced fumble and recovery that gave the Bears another chance to take the game away from the Saints. Eddie Jackson did not factor much into fantasy with only 1 solo tackle. Both safeties played every snap for the Bears. Trae Waynes had a decent performance with 2 solo tackles and 3 passes defensed. He should have gotten an interception but couldn’t hang on. Byron Jones was a quality addition to fantasy lineups with 5 total tackles and a pick-six against the Redskins. Jeff Heath was decidedly weaker with 4 total tackles in the same game.
Kurt Coleman CAR S – 4-3 FS Value: DB2
Kurt Coleman missed three weeks with a knee injury but was able to draw into the lineup against the Buccaneers in week 8. He wasted no time making an impact in the game. Coleman scored 9 total tackles (7 solo) and a fumble recovery while playing every snap. While Coleman is fairly high up in my tiers, odds are that between his hit-and-miss start to the season for production as well as his three-week layoff due to injury, he is as available as he is going to be. Coleman and the Panthers host the Falcons in week 9 which should prove to be an above average matchup for him.
Daniel Sorensen KCC S – 3-4 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Daniel Sorensen has been a full-time strong safety/nickel linebacker since Eric Berry went down with an injury in week 1. His fantasy viable has been spotty but he has produced lately with an average of 7.5 total tackles per game over his last four games. Sorensen is heavy into run support as evidenced by his week 8 effort against the Broncos where five of his seven tackles were on running backs. With the Cowboys hosting the Chiefs in week 9, there is a decent chance that Sorensen goes off for a decent tackle output. There is some risk there as Elliott may yet finally receive that suspension that the NFL seems intent on levying against him. If that happens, I like this matchup a lot less.
John Johnson/LaMarcus Joyner LAR S – 3-4 SS/FS Value: DB3
This one is a bit of a stretch given how Rams safeties have been in fantasy this year but the matchup is good. The Giants host the Rams in week 9. Over their last 4 games, the New York Giants have given up over 35 fantasy points per game to opposing safeties. There is a winning formula for the Giants at home coming off of the bye week but I think there is a better than average chance that the Rams force the Giants to throw the ball which should end up with opportunities at the safety position to make plays. John Johnson is a rookie out of Boston College who was promoted to starting strong safety in week 5. He hasn’t exactly tore up the stat sheet but has a chance this week given his 97% usage since then. LaMarcus Joyner missed weeks 4 through 6 with a hamstring injury but managed to play the entire game against the Cardinals in week 7. He is more likely to make a splash play with an interception but also has a lower tackle floor than I’d expect Johnson to have.
Sneaky play of the week – Shalom Luani OAK S
Shalom Luani drew a start at strong safety for the Raiders in the absence of Karl Joseph due to a groin injury. Luani played every snap but one and managed to score 6 solo tackles, 1 assist and a pass defensed in a losing effort against the Bills. Playing the Dolphins in Miami represents a weaker matchup but could yield decent results if the Raiders can score. Luani is virtually unowned in all but the deepest of leagues and could be a decent one or two week play depending on how Joseph’s groin injury heals.