We're on the downhill path to the playoffs. Hopefully, you've built up a lot of momentum through 8 weeks. I've got squads at 7-1, 6-2, and 5-3 and I can't stop thinking about "what could go wrong" with all the injuries piling up and bye week hells to come. This week we will have to deal with the Cardinals, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Lions all taking a break. There are some useful pieces in there and I have an average of one bench player not on bye in each league. Did anyone have to make a questionable drop to cover or are you willingly taking a zero somewhere? Let's get into the brave new world and the "super 6" bye week hell that is week 9.
Game of the week: Chicago Bears vs. San Diego Chargers - I haven't thrown the Bears in fantasy game of the week this year but there is a lot to be interested in on both sides here. Jeremy Langford will get the start and I'll be shocked if he doesn't get 25 touches. This is the one game where he can show us what he's got against like competition. I expect a legitimate solid outing here as anything less than 80 yards rushing and a score will be a letdown. This also sets up as a big game for Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery. That connection is starting to sparkle again and this is a great game to showcase that duo as the Chargers have struggled against the pass. I also want to take a look at Martellus Bennett. Marty is known to not care for the fantasy community and I have never had him on my squads as he's inconsistent and unreliable. Let's see if he can put up a good game this week before the Bears offense faces two of the best defenses in the league.
The Chargers will look to recover from the Keenan Allen kidney injury. What a tough break for a guy who was absolutely killing it this year. Allen was on pace for 134 catches and there is nothing on this receiving corps close enough in talent to replace him. However, Philip Rivers will need to continue throwing as the running game hasn't been effective with Melvin Gordon so look for Stevie Johnson and old friend Antonio Gates to receive value bumps for the rest of the season. Malcom Floyd is still hanging around and had a big week last week. It will be interesting to see how the passing tree shakes out. My hunch is that Gates will see the most targets this week followed by Johnson.
Teddy Bridgewater vs. St. Louis Rams - I wasn't particularly impressed with Teddy Two Gloves last week. The vast majority of his yardage numbers were thanks to the long run of Stefon Diggs and a great individual effort / deer-in-headlights-Antrel Rolle moment at the end of the game. The Rams are a big boy defense and he might not survive the afternoon. The narrative around Mr. Two Gloves has become way too friendly for someone who hasn't done anything yet. Show me against a real defense.
DeAngelo Williams vs. Oakland Raiders - I truly hope we are done with big name injuries to NFL players as we have just had a terrible year. It started off with Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin and the latest injuries were to Steve Smith Sr. and Le'Veon Bell. Williams steps back in for Bell and I have very high expectations. He's been a feature back before and it seems like this Pittsburgh system fits him well. I think he'll go down as the most important pickup of the year.
Julio Jones vs. San Francisco 49ers - I happen to have a lot riding on the second half of the Julio Jones season as he's the key player on 2 franchises. Julio has been phenomenal this year and while his production dipped a little bit over weeks 4-6, he's overall absolutely killing it. He's on track for 204 targets, 140 catches, and almost 1,800 yards with 12 scores. What's interesting is I think he might even do more as favorable matchups remain against the Colts, Vikings, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Saints. This week's game against the 49ers should be open season for Julio. Let's see if he can get back on pace for challenging Marvin Harrison's 143 catch record &/or Calvin Johnson's 1,964 yards. Either way, it will be fun to watch.
4 Defenses to Use - Obviously, you're going to use the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams this weekend. Andrew Luck has been struggling mightily and the Broncos just held
the second coming Aaron Rodgers to 76 yards. The Rams are going to be a defense that you see on a lot of playoff rosters as they have one of the best schedules to finish the year. I also like the Falcons and Jets this weekend, and they might actually be available for your squads in need. The Falcons get to pick on Blaine Gabbert and the Jets get Jacksonville at home.
4 Defenses to Abuse - Start all of your Falcons (@49ers), Giants (@Buccaneers), and I think it's safe to start your Broncos again this week against the Colts in Indianapolis for probably the last Peyton Manning game in the RCA Dome. Finally, I think you should roll out some Titans like Marcus Mariota and Antonio Andrews if you're in bye week hell. I've even got a Titan flier for you below...
Shotgun Longshot - Tyrod Taylor - Sitting at 47% ownership in Yahoo! leagues as I write this, fitting my arbitrary 50% cutoff, Taylor is about to come back into our lives against the Miami Dolphins. Before Taylor suffered his sprained MCL, he was one of the more interesting stories of the early season. Dial him up if you're feeling the Carson Palmer blues.
Toss Sweep Sleeper - Bilal Powell - This is admittedly a deep dive here but it is getting impossible to find good RB plays that might be available on your FA pool. The 3% owned Powell was getting 10-12 carries a game for the Jets before he went down with an injury. Chris Ivory stepped up his game and had a few big outings to make people forget about Powell as he recovered. Powell is back this week and with Ivory coming back down to earth a bit, I can see Powell getting some carries and getting work as a 3rd down back. If you're super desperate, this is an interesting play.
Fly Route Flier - Dorial Green-Beckham - Another deep dive! You're welcome, America. Green-Beckham's Titans are getting Marcus Mariota back and will be playing their first game under a new Head Coach after Ken Whizenhunt was fired on Monday. They get to play the New Orleans defense, who just coughed up 49 points to the Giants, and coaches said that Green-Beckham will play more this week. This guy hasn't done much of anything, so please take this with caution, but the 12% owned DGB might be that sleeper pick you were looking for.
What are you looking forward to the most this weekend?