The calendar has turned to November as we enter Week 9 of the NFL season. Following this week, eight weeks remain in the regular season, meaning in essence, we are halfway home. However, there are still three more bye weeks to manage, including this week as any Patriots, 49ers, Jets or Rams you have on your roster won’t get you any points in Week 9.
Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.
Bye week teams: New England, New York Jets, St. Louis, San Francisco
Sneaky Start of the Week
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis vs. Miami
Allen may have been drafted a round later than teammate Coby Fleener, and has fewer receptions and targets than the former Stanford Cardinal, but he definitely has one advantage this week. Allen is playing and Fleener is not.
Fleener injured his shoulder in last week’s overtime win in Tennessee and is expected to miss the next two games. This means Allen will replace Fleener as the Colts’ starting tight end and likewise he won’t be competing with him for targets during this time.
Fleener and quarterback Andrew Luck may have been teammates at Stanford, but that hasn’t affected Allen and Luck’s chemistry one bit. While Fleener does have more targets and receptions, Allen has just four fewer catches (17 to 21) and he has two touchdowns, compared to zero for Fleener.
Between Fleener and Allen, Luck has targeted these two a total of 59 times in seven games. That’s an average of more than eight per contest. While Allen won’t get every single TE target this week against Miami (Weslye Saunders is also on the roster), I think he will get more than enough additional opportunities to make him a legitimate starting option in a week that has Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Aaron Hernandez and Dustin Keller on bye.
Surprise Sit of the Week
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay at Oakland
Wait a minute. Sit the guy who led all running backs in fantasy scoring last week by piling up 205 total yards (135 rush, 69 receiving) and two touchdowns against, by all appearances, what seemed to be a pretty good Minnesota defense? More on the Vikings' D later (see below), but as it relates to Martin, feel free to call me crazy, but I just don’t think he will have near as much success this Sunday against Oakland.
The Raiders are ranked 11th in the league against the run, allowing 102.1 yards per game. Of the 715 total yards rushing the Silver and Black have surrendered, 583 have been gained by running backs. Of that total, 284, or a little less than half, belong to Reggie Bush (172) and Willis McGahee (112). They also have scored three of the five rushing touchdowns the Raiders have allowed to backs.
Outside of these two, the other running backs have accumulated 299 yards rushing on 113 carries, which works out to 2.6 yards per carry, and two touchdowns. I’m not saying Martin has not performed on the same level or better than a Bush or McGahee to this point. I just don’t think the Raiders’ run defense has been that bad if you look at the whole picture.
My other hesitation with Martin for this week revolves around the loss of All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks. Nicks, who was one of the Bucs’ big free agent signees this offseason, has been placed on injured reserve with a toe injury. Regardless of how deep Tampa Bay’s offensive line is, the loss of Nicks will have an impact that's almost certain to show up on the field.
Someone will have to move over and take Nicks’ left guard spot, which results in a domino effect across the line, or a reserve will be asked to fill some pretty big shoes. Either way, I would not be surprised to see the Bucs’ running game, and perhaps even pass protection, struggle this week on the road against the Raiders. I don’t think Martin will get shut out, but I wouldn’t count on an encore performance this week out west.
Cam Newton (CAR) at Washington
Regular readers of this feature would probably bring up the fact that on more than one occasion, I have suggested sitting Newton. I still view Newton as one of the bigger disappointments in fantasy football this season, when you compare production with draft position, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t put up big numbers any given week. And considering Washington is last in the league in passing defense, has allowed the most touchdown passes (18) and yards (2,532) to quarterbacks, I really like his chances to do just that on Sunday.
Michael Vick (PHI) at New Orleans (Monday)
Like Newton, Vick has been another frequent Sit target here. What’s worse, Vick could be playing for his job, as the heat is on him, head coach Andy Reid and the rest of the team and organization to try and turn things around. Whether the Eagles can pull out the win in New Orleans on Monday night or not remains to be seen, but I do like Vick’s chances to do his part against the Saints. New Orleans is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and outside of 7.1 points by Matt Cassel, no quarterback has scored fewer than 23.2 against the Saints. Like Cassel, Vick has had his problems with turnovers, but I think he flips that script this week and plays his best game of the season. If not, he may find himself on the bench, and I’m just not referring to the fantasy aspect here.
Jay Cutler (CHI) at Tennessee
Cutler has been about as boom or bust as a quarterback can be this season. He’s had three games of 22 or more fantasy points, yet he’s also posted three games with fewer than 10. Last week against Carolina was one of those (9.8), but I will grant him some leniency as I think his sore ribs were bothering him more than he let on. So why am I on the Cutler bandwagon this week? Let’s just say I think the home cooking will do him some good. Cutler played his college ball at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., and on top of a visit to his old stomping grounds, he also gets to face the Titans and their 29th-ranked passing defense. What better medicine for an ailing quarterback than a defense that has given up 17 touchdown passes and the fourth-most fantasy points to the position.
Joe Flacco (BAL) at Cleveland
The last time Flacco faced the Browns back in Week 4 he threw for 356 yards, had two touchdowns (1 pass, 1 rush) and just one interception (24.6 fantasy pts). So why the change of heart for this week’s rematch? Two reasons, the first of which is that Flacco has not played well in Cleveland. In four career games in the Dawg Pound, Flacco has completed less than 59 percent of his passes for an average of 165.8 yards per game, to go along with four touchdown passes and one interception. The bigger reason is that when the Ravens and Browns played in Week 4, cornerback Joe Haden did not as he was in the midst of serving a four-game suspension. Haden returned in Week 6 and in the Browns’ last two games, the defense has given up a total of 340 passing yards and no touchdowns. I just don’t see the Ravens throwing it as much or with near as much success this time around against the Browns.
Christian Ponder (MIN) at Seattle
After not throwing an interception in the first four games, Ponder has seven in the past four. He also has just six touchdowns in that same span, further limiting his fantasy production. The Vikings are in Seattle this week to take on a Seahawks defense that has already held Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Tony Romo in check at home. Last time I checked, Ponder wasn’t on any of these guys’ level, even with the issues Romo has had recently with interceptions.
Matt Hasselbeck (TEN) vs. Chicago
With news coming out that Jake Locker is dealing with a fracture in his non-throwing (left) shoulder, Hasselbeck will remain the Titans’ starter until further notice. That said, I wouldn’t plan on using the veteran this week against Chicago. Even though the Bears’ defense has fared worse against the pass than the run, it’s still a pretty stout one overall and I don’t think the Titans have an offense that can be expected to do all that much. For what it’s worth, Hasselbeck isn’t the only Titan I’m down on this week (see below).
Alfred Morris (WAS) vs. Carolina
Let’s see, Morris is third in the NFL in rushing and he’s facing a Carolina defense that’s giving up 114.4 yards per game along with the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. No one it saw coming, but Morris has become basically a must-start option each week and that’s certainly the case this Sunday.
Reggie Bush (MIA) at Indianapolis
Bush hasn’t rushed for more than 67 yards in a game since exploding for 172 against Oakland in Week 2. Fortunately for him, Indianapolis and the Colts’ 27th-ranked run defense are on tap. The Colts have already given up 177 yards to Maurice Jones-Drew and 161 to Shonn Greene. I’m not sure Bush will get that many, but I am predicting he will end up with around 100 and probably a score or two.