Fantasy Football

2018 Fantasy Football Week 9 Preview: Reset Button


If your fantasy team still looks the same since September, you haven’t been paying attention. I would even say you don’t watch much football either.

Yeah, there never was or ever will be a “set it and forget it” fantasy football team unless you play in a “best ball” format. I suppose best ball works for those too preoccupied to manage a team. But then, you’re just hoping for no injuries, steady and unwavering depth charts, and your guys playing to their expected potential. The healthiest team wins.

This is why DFS and redraft leagues remain the most popular formats. Managing a team is caretaking a set of people creating tangible statistics. We like the decision making.

The forks in the road we face either lead to victory or the cliff. We like that satisfaction of getting it right; be it the draft, waivers, or the weekly start and sit.

It’s November and we begin that phase of the playoff chase in our leagues. Wins become crucial. You obviously like watching football, so it becomes important to keep a keen eye on what players waiting in the wings are potential league winners.

2018 Fantasy Football Week 9 Preview

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Byes: Bengals, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars

Sunday Early
Steelers (4-2-1) at Ravens (4-4)

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I wrote about the Ravens at length last week about their tendency toward offensive gadgetry. We saw it again against the Panthers last week and I correctly assumed that Lamar Jackson‘s snap count would increase.

This week, I think that trend continues. The Ravens acquired another gadget-type player from the Packers in Ty Montgomery. Montgomery fits the scheme of the Ravens perfectly. I doubt we see the complete realization of what the playbook of the Ravens has in store for him this soon, but Montgomery is a guy we will all have our eyes on in the coming weeks in fantasy.

The Ravens defeated the Steelers 26-14 in Week 4 at Heinz Field. The Steelers steadied the ship since then after a rocky start and look to return the favor in Baltimore. This time around, the Steelers are stronger defensively, especially against the run, and currently have a three game winning streak.

Ravens Defense

The Ravens themselves are perhaps the best week-on-week defense for points against fantasy formats. In real football, they are just as tough. The core of their strength comes from the linebacker pressure of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. What they do is force quarterbacks into short-range solutions. We saw a prime example in the opening drive of the Saints a couple of weeks back.

This “bend not break” type of defense will test the Steelers. What Pittsburgh often do against strong defenses on the road is have Ben Roethlisberger use the third or fourth receiver heavily. For example, we saw Mike Tomlin use this tactic effectively against the then elite Seahawks defense in 2015 with Markus Wheaton. Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Shuster will draw the main coverage and perhaps open it up for a guy like…

Sleeper: James Washington, WR, Steelers

Sunday Late
Rams (8-0) at Saints (6-1)

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High stakes. This game gives the winner a major advantage for the top playoff seed in the NFC.

The character of the Saints offense this season is rather, er, odd. They’ve become a team of many faces and with no clear rudiments between a running and passing offense. I’m sure they’ll have to put their passing hat on this week as the Rams will likely force an offensive show.

The Rams defense, while solid, are exploitable as we saw against the Packers last week. However, the Saints defense are less intrusive than the Packers in developing a pass rush beyond Cameron Jordan and talented rookie Marcus Davenport. Not a bad thing necessarily because the Saints seem content to let the linebackers drop back to help out in coverage.

So, for the Saints, they’ll pick their poison when it comes to dealing with Todd Gurley. I assume they’ll try brute force penetration and at least prevent Gurley from too many big gains via pass reception.

Aaron Donald – 2 for 1

It’s almost a similar situation for the Rams defense against Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara. The difference is that Aaron Donald is almost a two-for-one player who forces pressure like a blitzing linebacker up the middle. He truly is an amazing defensive tackle and deserving of every accolade.

Brees is a master of quick out routes and he’ll need all that skill to force the Rams to loosen their deeper coverage. If successful, then Brees can send some bombs dropping into the arms of Michael Thomas.

Jared Goff will press the Saints secondary hard with Gurley allowing wonderful play-action opportunities. As we saw against the Packers, he’ll let loose with Robert Woods and now plus Cooper Kupp do his own bombing to Brandin Cooks.

Prepare for fireworks in the fourth quarter when the worn out defenses on both sides lose some of their spring. Get the popcorn out for this one.

Sleeper: Tre’Quan Smith, WR, Saints

Sunday Night
Packers (3-3-1) at Patriots (6-2)

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More great football action. This is one of those rare matchups between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Not only are they NFL quarterbacks, they’re iconic celebrities. Relish this moment between these two as we may never see them play against each other again unless it’s in the Super Bowl.

We used to see this kind of thing more often between Brady and Manning, but these days a new and younger group are slowly heading up the playbill.

The Patriots will likely get Sony Michel back for this one, so the Packers will face the destructive tandem of he and James White. We used to think in terms of an “EdelGronk” offense, but now the Patriots are evolving into something else again.

We remain in anticipation of that Josh Gordon breakout that never seems to come. What a game for it to happen than this one. Last week, Gordon’s name came up in the press about receiving team discipline for tardiness. The Belichick system is strict and somewhat secretive, so we don’t know the mountains from the molehills when it comes to this sort of thing.

Vertical and Horizontal

Anyway, back to the game. Everyone and his dog knows that this game will get vertical pretty quick. So, if you like airstrikes, you’ll get plenty. Aaron Rodgers had a “denial of service” last week against the Rams in the late stages because of the Ty Montgomery fumble.

That loss places immense importance on this game for the Packers as a team in the very strong NFC north division. The best way to beat the Patriots is to finish drives and come away with something better than field goals. If you think the Rams are good at closing out games, the Patriots are death in the fourth quarter when they have a two-possession lead.

The good thing for Rodgers is that he’ll be able to work the sidelines better against the Patriots than the Rams and get those outside lane first downs. He likes the exercise of racing to the edge for the down marker, but you rarely see him break up the middle for a slide.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling may handle major work since both Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are injury questionables. If one or both are out, rush to the wire and get him in your lineup.

Sleeper: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Patriots

Monday Night
Titans (3-4) at Dallas (3-4)

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Usually when the expectations are high for a boring game, something happens with Monday night magic. If you’re looking at picking up a sure thing with the Titans and Cowboys DSTs, don’t bank on them to give you smooth sailing. It never seems to work out on a Monday night.

We talk about avoiding Thursday night starts, but for some reason, Mondays often give us more than less.

Amari Cooper enters Jerry World for the first time. Just remember, he wears 19 now, and not 89 anymore. We’ll finally see the answer if the Raiders were the problem, or if he was. So far, the Raiders after Thursday night’s performance made more than half the case in Cooper’s favor.

I sense this game will result in a “jury still out” verdict on Cooper, but with enough optimism to raise some better expectations moving forward. Okay, that’s a rather dampish forecast, but let’s be realistic.

I completely understand we’ve only seen Cooper at his best with Derek Carr. Yet, I hardly think Dak Prescott is an upgrade on his quarterback. In fact, I agree with the pundits who say that the Cooper trade to the Cowboys is indeed more about Prescott than Cooper.

Underwhelming Titans

As for Marcus Mariota and the boys, they really need anything to start working. The worst part about them is that the running game is absolutely paltry. Dion Lewis checked in at the fantasy desk to least let us know he was alive last week. Derrick Henry (another Heisman dud), has yet to even call in.

I find it strange that Delanie Walker had so much influence on the Titans. Maybe he does, or did. Mariota seemed to rely too much on Walker as his passing game anchor and cannot find another one. Security blanket syndrome.

As of now, I sense his new security blanket is Tajae Sharpe who, out of nowhere, had nine targets and seven catches for 101 yards in Week 7 before the bye week. That said, I’m still an eye test guy first; stats guy second. Sharpe had that workhorse look to him and the race to waiver wire on Tuesday could include Sharpe depending on what happens in Dallas on Monday.

Sleeper: Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys

Players to Watch

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Demaryius Thomas, WR Texans (at Broncos)

This has the feel of a Pierre Garcon type of transaction to the Texans, where a veteran hangs around as a leadership presence for the young guys. I still believe you get Keke Coutee off the wire and hold him tight. It should interesting to see if the Texans trot Thomas out faithfully as a proper farewell to his Broncos fans. There is no revenge factor here. Business is always business with John Elway and the Broncos. Thomas was around the organization long enough to know that the front office does things in this manner.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions (at Vikings)

And the whole Lions offensive set-up in the passing game really. Golden Tate leaves a heap of targets in a vacuum for someone to claim in the slot. Golladay seems like a potential candidate, but we don’t know because it’s not really his forté. We have to watch a number of players this Sunday on the Lions to see what OC Jim Bob Cooter offers up to Matt Patricia.

Whatever scheme Patricia signs onto from Jim Bob, somebody aside from Golladay and Marvin Jones has to step into an expanded role. Keep watch on these guys in particular: Theo Riddick, T.J. Jones and especially UDFA Brandon Powell. If my fantasy bench could hold enough to spec them all, I would.

Jeff Heuerman, TE, Broncos (vs Texans)

Just because Demaryius Thomas is off the roster does not mean Courtland Sutton will suddenly gain all that vacated target volume. Jeff Heuerman is a spec add this week and we do well to pay attention for the other players in their passing offense too. The only thing that may hinder Heuerman is that the Texans are stingy toward tight ends in fantasy over the past four weeks.

David Moore, WR, Seahawks (vs Chargers)

What’s going on around here? We really need to know after three weeks of solid usage. I studied the film intensely of David Moore and the Seahawks this week. The only conclusion I can reach is that this guy is going beyond just a mere Paul Richardson replacement in their passing offense. Doug Baldwin should not be this invisible; unless the Seahawks are quietly using him as a decoy on light duty. Perhaps preserving him in case his knee gives him trouble.

Yet Moore continually finds himself being a mismatch winner against some pretty solid defensive backs. It begs the question, why is this guy not more known to us? The game on Sunday might help us determine if he is a flash in the pan or not.

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins (vs Jets)

More please. We hunger for some extra confidence here. Parker had a 100+ yardage for the first time in two years last week in the loss to the Texans. His total of 134 is the most single game yardage of his career. Now, we’ve seen this before folks, so that’s why we have to see if finally something has woken up.

Elijah McGuire, RB, Jets (at Dolphins)

Continue stashing or start? That is the question many fantasy enthusiasts will ask when setting their lineups for Sunday. McGuire steps into a full auxiliary backfield role to compliment Isaiah Crowell. I’m a gusto guy and in these heavy bye weeks I say start him in the flex barring a clearly better alternative. Many people might feel too coy about the idea, but that’s when you miss the boat.

In the Booth on Sunday

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Bruce Arians

CBS Early

Steelers at Ravens: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Chiefs at Browns: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Bruce Arians
Jets at Dolphins: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

CBS Late

Chargers at Seahawks: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Texans at Broncos: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein

Fox Early

Falcons at Redskins: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Lions at Vikings: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Bears at Bills: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Buccaneers at Panthers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber

Fox Late

Rams at Saints: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Check out the rest of our 2018 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

About Richard Savill

Richard is an NFL Fantasy Football Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. Winner of the 16-Team 2015 FSWA challenge.

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