Fantasy owners who have stuck with Antonio Brown (the again why wouldn’t you) were rewarded in a huge way (17 rec., 284 yds.) in Week 9, while some other big names continued to struggle. As for the wide receivers and tight ends I told you to start or sit last week, how did that advice pan out? Let’s look at a few examples.
Start Mike Evans (13.2 fantasy points) – He finally looked like an elite No. 1 WR, even though he dropped several balls.
Start Emmanuel Sanders (15 FP) – Sanders was Peyton Manning’s go-to target against the Colts.
Start Amari Cooper (14.8 FP) – Cooper got over shadowed by Michael Crabtree (7-108-2), but 88 receiving yards and a TD isn’t bad.
Sit Randal Cobb (15.9 FP) – Looks like Cobb does exist! He finally scored more than four fantasy points for the first time since
Sit Allen Robinson (12.1 FP) – Both Robinson (6-121-0) and Hurns (5-122-1) were fantastic against the Jets. Blake Bortles is going to keep airing it out so Robinson is a must-start from here on out.
Start Benjamin Watson (6 FP) – Ceded a touchdown to Josh Hill, but Watson was worthy of starting last week for sure.
Start Heath Miller (3.2 FP) – Ben Roethlisberger (and then Landry Jones after Big Ben got hurt) basically only threw the ball all game to Antonio Brown.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco
START THESE WRs...
Allen Robinson, JAC (at BAL)
Robinson has easily played his way into the WR1 conversation and he is starting to look matchup-proof. Last week he was paired against Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets and he managed to score 12.1 fantasy points thanks to six catches and 121 yards. That game also was the first time in the past four weeks that Robinson didn’t score a touchdown. This week the Jaguars travel to Baltimore to play a Ravens defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. You can bet that Jags are going to drop back to pass a lot in this game and look for Blake Bortles to connect with Robison to the tune of 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown.
Demaryius Thomas, DEN (vs. KC)
In a game where Peyton Manning almost threw for 300 yards, it’s very disappointing to see that Thomas was only targeted seven times, catching five balls for a grand total of 50 yards. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he saw blanket coverage throughout most of the game by Vontae Davis, the Colts’ elite cover corner. This week Thomas should be back with a vengeance as he has an appealing matchup vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are terrible against the pass. They are currently giving up the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Thomas should come close to catching 10 balls for well over 100 yards in this one. The real problem is that Thomas might not score a TD because those have been hard to come by this year from Manning.
Amari Cooper, OAK (vs. MIN)
This might be the last time that I can put Cooper in the start section because he is slowly, but surely becoming matchup-proof. We’ll see how he does this week because on paper he’s got a very tough matchup at home against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings’ pass defense is moving into the elite category, as they are allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season. But what makes Cooper a must-start this week is that the Vikings have allowed No. 1 WRs to post more than six receptions per game. That’s great news if you have Cooper in a PPR league. Plus the way that Derek Carr is playing right now, Cooper should end the day with close to 100 yards and another touchdown.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Tavon Austin, STL (vs. CHI)
It looks like Austin isn’t going to be the first-round draft bust that we all thought he was destined to be after all. Austin is now being used as a featured weapon in both the Rams’ running and passing game. He’s still a boom-or-bust option, but he has a chance to make a big boom this week. The Rams host the Chicago Bears, and the Bears have a decent run defense, highlighted by the fact that they are currently giving up the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. What this means is that the Bears are going to do everything possible to slow down Todd Gurley. That should mean plenty of opportunities for Austin, whether it’s out of the backfield or on short and intermediate routes because the Bears have given up the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. If you’re looking for a what the heck flex play this week, go with Austin.
SIT THESE WRs...
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (at SEA)
Fitzgerald has slowed down considerably since his Week 2 and Week 3 outbursts where he scored 29.2 and 25.4 fantasy points respectively. Since then he hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game, has only scored two touchdowns and has produced fewer than 10 fantasy points in three of his last five games. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of John Brown and the return to health of Michael Floyd. Carson Palmer really does have a lot of options to throw the ball too. Fitzgerald will be a fine start for the rest of the year, but not this week as the Cardinals travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who are notoriously tough to beat at home. The Seahawks have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season and that isn’t going to change this week. Palmer could struggle this week and that’s not good news if you start Fitzgerald.
Jeremy Maclin, KC (at DEN)
Maclin has had a rough few weeks after a great start to the season. He’s seen his production take a nose dive and he suffered a nasty concussion. Now presumably he’s back to 100 percent health and what does he get as a welcome back gift? How about playing the vaunted Denver Broncos secondary? Since Aqib Talib is suspended for this game for being an idiot, Maclin will draw coverage from Chris Harris, who also is a shutdown corner. It’s not as if the Chiefs have another wide receiver that the Broncos need to worry about either. Look for the Broncos to smother Maclin all game, as he should struggle to score even five fantasy points this week in standard leagues.
Sammy Watkins, BUF (at NYJ)
Last week Watkins played the game of his life, catching all eight passes he saw for 168 yards and a long touchdown. That’s good for 22.8 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. That’s after he has basically been a non-factor all season. This week, however, things will be different as the New York Jets are a legitimate defense and it doesn’t help that Watkins is going to be matched up against Darrelle Revis all game. Throw in the fact that this is a short week since the game is on Thursday night and that Watkins’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor is very inconsistent and you have the makings of a dud game for Watkins.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Mike Evans, TB (at DAL)
So far this season Evans has been up and down, up and down. One week he scores 4.1 fantasy points then he scores 22.4 fantasy points. He follows that big game up with a dud, scoring 4.8 fantasy points and then last week scored 13.2 fantasy points, although he could have had a lot more if he didn’t drop six balls. So if we continue the good game, bad game trend, Evans is due for a stinker this week in Dallas. This would make sense because the Cowboys are pretty good against the pass, allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. You also have to consider that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins may finally be back to steal targets away from Evans.
START THESE TEs...
Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs. HOU, Mon.)
Much like other elite tight ends, Eifert is very inconsistent, but when he’s good, he’s really good. Two weeks ago Eifert managed only 3.9 fantasy points. He then followed that dud of a game up with a three-touchdown performance last Thursday night. Since Andy Dalton loves throwing Eifert’s way in the red zone, Eifert is a must-start every week. He might not go off for 100-plus yards, but he could score multiple touchdowns in any game, and for that reason, you must start him every week. He’ll probably score again this week on Monday night against the Houston Texans and their defense that has given up nearly 26 points per game.
Jordan Reed, WAS (vs. NO)
When healthy, Reed is one of the most consistent fantasy scoring tight ends in the NFL. He looks to have recovered from his latest concussion and saved his fantasy owners last week with a late touchdown grab against the New England Patriots. It’s easy to see that Reed is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target and he will throw Reed the ball anytime, anywhere. This week the Redskins play host to the New Orleans Saints and their awful defense. Right now a high school team could put up 30 points on the Saints. They are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and there’s no reason to think that Reed won’t have his first 100-yard game of 2015 this week.
Delanie Walker, TEN (vs. CAR)
Walker absolutely exploded last week against the Saints for 23.5 fantasy points thanks to seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers will be hard to duplicate, Walker and Marcus Mariota seem to be developing some nice chemistry. It also helps that the Titans really do not have any other receiving threat and with Dorial Green-Beckham taking the top off of defenses, there’s plenty of room for Walker to roam over the middle. That said, this week’s matchup isn’t necessarily a great one against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are giving up the 13th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, but as mentioned before the Titans have no other option but to keep getting the ball to Walker. Another double-digit fantasy day is in store for Walker this week.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Eric Ebron, DET (at GB)
Ebron has been a pleasant fantasy surprise this season, especially those who were smart enough to jump on him after he scored 10-plus fantasy points in each of the first two games. His fantasy production has slowed down a bit, but more of that has to do with Matthew Stafford’s inability to get him the ball than anything else. This week the Lions travel to Green Bay in a game that the Packers could be up by three scores at half time. That means that Stafford might have to throw the ball more than 50 times to get the Lions back into the game and he can’t throw all of those passes to Calvin Johnson. Throw in the fact that the Packers are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and you have a smart play in Ebron this week.
SIT THESE TEs...
Heath Miller, PIT (vs. CLE)
Everyone was on Miller last week; he was the No. 1 streamed tight end and for good reason. The previous week Ben Roethlisberger finally returned to the field and Miller caught 10 balls for 105 yards. So of course they’d be in store for an encore last week against the Oakland Raiders, the worst team in the NFL when it comes to defending tight ends, right? Wrong. Big Ben basically only threw the ball to Antonio Brown before he got hurt. Miller ended the game with only 32 receiving yards and it looks like it Landry Jones’ gig once again. This means that if you picked up Miller off the waiver wire, you should return him immediately. In Weeks 3 to 7 when Big Ben was out, Miller was a complete afterthought in the Steelers’ offense and that’s what he’ll be this week against the Browns.
Julius Thomas, JAC (at BAL)
So much for Jacksonville’s big free agent splash this offseason. Thomas has been basically hurt all year and even when he does play, he’s highly ineffective. On the year, Thomas has only 116 receiving yards and one touchdown. To make things worse the Jaguars’ other tight end, Bryan Walters, is now ahead of him in the pecking order. Throw in the fact that the Jaguars are playing the Ravens, who are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the year and you should realize that dropping Thomas is probably the way to go.
Martellus Bennett, CHI (at STL)
What a bust Bennett has been so far this year. Many thought that Bennett could easily be a top-3 fantasy tight end with now Alshon Jeffery for much of the first half of the season and the fact that Jay Cutler really had no other pass-catching options. Instead Bennet has only scored double-digit fantasy points in three games this season and is more likely to score closer to his season average of five points when the Bears play the Rams this week. The Rams have an elite defense and are currently giving up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season. Plus, it’s evident that Cutler only really wants to throw the ball to Jeffery. Bennett is an easy must-sit this week.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs. ARI)
By now we all know that Jimmy Graham in Seattle isn’t going to be anything like the Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Of course you’re probably not going to bench Graham since you probably spent such a high draft pick on him, but he’s very hard to trust on a week-to-week basis, which can kill any chance you have of winning your weekly matchup. Graham has posted fewer than eight fantasy points in five of his eight games this season. This week he faces the Arizona Cardinals and their vaunted defense that is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.