Fantasy Football

Keep the faith with Vick for Week 9

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Through eight weeks, our Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed is an increasingly strong tool to help you find good matchups.

As always, please remember that the players listed are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see recommendations to start Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees, because you should always start Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees. Make sense? Good.

Note: The fantasy points per game (FPPG) referenced below are from FOXSports.com standard leagues.

Week 9 Byes: Patriots, Jets, 49ers, Rams

Thursday game: Chiefs at Chargers

Quarterbacks

Stay away: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (at Texans)

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There aren’t any big-name quarterbacks that warrant matchup-related benchings this week – just some borderline ones. Fitzpatrick comes off his bye week to visit the Texans, who have the NFL’s fifth-ranked pass defense and are 11th in FPPG allowed (17.5). Sit the inconsistent Fitzpatrick for this one.

Also:

Christian Ponder is a solid matchup play in some weeks, but heads out West for a stern test against the Seahawks, who rank seventh with 15.4 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Yep, the benching suggestions are Fitzpatrick and Ponder. I’m really going out on a limb here, huh? If you want someone to warn you away from bad matchups for Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo, try somewhere else.

Play, play, play: Michael Vick, Eagles (at Saints)

Vick isn’t getting benched yet, and his reward for keeping his job is a Monday date with the Saints, whose defensive ineptitude is hard to overstate. They rank 30th in the NFL in pass defense, and last with 26.5 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Simply put, they stink. If you drafted Vick, he’s been frustrating you all season, and you’re dying to bench him if you haven’t already. He’s finally going to earn his fantasy keep, at least for one game. I’ve got him ranked at QB7 this week. Roll with Vick if you have him.

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The Bills’ pass defense is pretty awful as well, ranking 22nd in the league with 247 passing yards per game allowed, and 31st with 24.6 FPPG given up to opposing QBs. Matt Schaub and the Texans like to run the ball, but they should be able to do some damage through the air as well.

Running Backs

Stay away: Michael Turner, Falcons (vs. Cowboys)

For all the Cowboys’ shortcomings, their defense is pretty good overall. It’s very good versus the pass, but they’re not bad against the run either, ranking 11th with 15.7 FPPG allowed to opposing rushers. Turner ran 24 times for 58 yards in last week’s rout over the Eagles, but before that he averaged just 14 carries for 59.5 yards in Atlanta’s first six games. He’s a shaky start this week.

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Donald Brown and Vick Ballard have been decent flex options this season, but with both of them healthy, they’re expected to share the rushing load for the Colts, who have leaned more toward the pass (41 attempts per game) than the run. In Week 9, they host the Dolphins, who rank eighth with 13.9 FPPG allowed to opposing backs, and are third in the NFL in rushing defense. Part-time backs need not apply for this matchup.

Play, play, play: Daniel Thomas, Dolphins (at Colts)

Speaking of the Dolphins, they got a healthy Daniel Thomas involved in the offense again last week, giving him the ball 15 times for 42 yards and a score. Thomas is a goal-line threat ready to face a shaky Colts’ D that ranks 25th with 21.6 FPPG allowed to opposing backs. If Thomas has been sitting on your bench, this might be a time to sneak him in there. As of Thursday morning, I had him at RB31.

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Mikel Leshoure missed Wednesday’s practice, and there’s been some question in the Twitterverse as to whether that was due to personal reasons (the Lions’ explanation) or a leg injury (according to the Detroit Free Press). If Leshoure plays this week – and he apparently will – he’ll be a fine start against a Jaguars’ D that ranks 29th with 23.3 FPPG allowed to opposing backs. Teammate Joique Bell isn’t a bad option either, as he was a little busier than usual in the Lions’ Week 8 win, with 58 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches.

With fantasy bust Ben Tate on track to miss another game this week, Justin Forsett will be Arian Foster’s sidekick. That’s not a bad job in what figures to be a lopsided win over the Bills, who rank last in the league in both real (176.9 ypg) and fantasy (27.6 FPPG) rushing defense. Forsett carried six times for 32 yards near the end of Week 7’s blowout win over the Ravens, and had eight touches for 65 yards in the Week 6 loss to the Packers, with Tate active in both games. If you’re reaching deep, there’s reason to believe that Forsett could get the ball 10 times, and post modest fantasy production. I’ve got him at RB35.

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Wide Receivers

Stay away: James Jones, Packers (vs. Cardinals)

Part of this recommendation assumes that Jordy Nelson will return after a one-week injury hiatus. Either way, Jones and the Packers will host a Cardinals’ pass defense that ranks fourth in the NFL with 192.9 yards per game allowed, and 16th with 21.1 FPPG given up to opposing wideouts. Also, while Jones has been a scoring machine with seven touchdowns, he’s averaging just 50 receiving yards per game. I don’t hate Jones in Week 9, but I don’t like him all that much, either.

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We should prepare for a low-scoring game in Seattle on Sunday, and that doesn’t bode well for the solid but unspectacular Sidney Rice, who faces a Vikings’ defense that ranks sixth with 18.5 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers. Rice has scored in two of his last three games, but the matchup and his inconsistent targeting from QB Russell Wilson make him a bench candidate.

Dez Bryant gets plenty of looks, but over the last three games, he’s been targeted fewer times than teammates Miles Austin and Jason Witten. On Sunday night, he’ll face a Falcons’ defense that ranks third with 17.1 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers. Is Bryant a must-bench? No, but at WR25, I don’t like him as much as I usually do.

Play, play, play: Eagles (at Saints)

Re-read the note above about Michael Vick, and apply it directly to wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. The Saints rank dead last with 32.5 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers, so Maclin and Jackson should be in your lineups in this matchup of all fantasy matchups. Maclin seems to be getting into a groove after some early-season injury issues, catching 17 passes for 202 yards and a TD in his last three games.

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The Redskins’ pass defense isn’t much better than the Saints, as they allow 31.3 FPPG to opposing wide receivers. That could mean good things for Carolina’s Brandon LaFell, as long as he isn’t sidelined due to a concussion. LaFell didn’t practice Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Darrius Heyward-Bey caught only one pass in Week 8, but it was a 32-yard touchdown. He was better in Week 7, catching four passes for 85 yards on seven targets, and gets a friendly matchup against the 30th-ranked Bucs’ fantasy defense (28.8 FPPG to opposing wide receivers). DHB appears to be a decent deep flex option.

Tight Ends

Stay away: Jermichael Finley, Packers (vs. Cardinals)

The Cardinals rank third against opposing tight ends, allowing just 4.8 FPPG and giving up fewer than three receptions. Meanwhile, Finley continues his descent into fantasy oblivion, with just six receptions over his last three games. Remember the preseason, when we still thought he was a top-six fantasy tight end? Not so much any more.

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Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta faces a Browns’ defense that ranks fourth with 5.4 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. With just 12 receptions for 88 yards over his last three games, it’s difficult to recommend Pitta, even though many of you still have him rostered after he had three big outings to start the season. As with the quarterbacks, there aren’t any big names here this week, but do you really want someone to write something like “Bench Jimmy Graham because he’s playing against the Eagles, who rank fifth against tight ends?” Of course not. Sometimes, the matchups don’t make especially strong arguments.

Play, play, play: Greg Olsen, Panthers (at Redskins)

THIS matchup sure makes a strong argument, doesn’t it? The ‘Skins have been atrocious against opposing tight ends, ranking last with 12.7 FPPG allowed. Olsen hasn’t exactly been Cam Newton’s go-to target, but he’s a strong fantasy start this week at TE8 in my rankings. He could get bumped up if LaFell doesn’t play.

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The Broncos rank 30th against opposing fantasy tight ends, allowing 10.9 FPPG. Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham, who’s a Steady Eddie tight end with four catches and 46 yards per game, has more value than usual.

On the other side of the Broncos-Bengals tilt, Jacob Tamme faces a Cincy D that ranks 27th with 9.5 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. Tamme is a distant third option behind Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in the Denver passing attack, but with the Bengals doing a solid job against opposing wide receivers this season, Tamme could get enough looks to be a deep fantasy reach.

Good luck in Week 9!.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Colts, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Seahawks, Panthers, Ravens, Cardinals, Texans, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, Michael Turner, Ryan Fitzpatrick, James Jones, Calvin Johnson, Matt Ryan, Justin Forsett, Jacob Tamme, Jeremy Maclin, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon LaFell, Ben Tate, Daniel Thomas, Vick Ballard

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