Fantasy owners spent many a late first round pick on the Houston Texans' Steve Slaton in this year's draft. Through the first half of the season he hadn't quite lived up to his breakout expectations. Among other issues he's been dealing with, fumblexia; the inability to keep the football in the right set of hands, has cost his team and his own fantasy value. This weekend, in perhaps the sweetest match-up of the season, Slaton led off against the league's worst rush defense. On his third touch, a reception, he promptly fumbled the ball. That was enough for coach Gary Kubiak to do a Gong Show hook, and replace him with third-stringer, Ryan Moats. Didn't he used to be the special teams back for the Eagles a ways back?
While I'm sure Kubiak's move was move to send a clear message to his star running back, he had to like the results, the upstart, Moats generated: 126 rushing yards, 3 TDs, and a 5.5 YPC average. he even threw in a couple of receptions for 25 yards, just to rub salt in poor Slaton's wounds. So here's the point where every one races for the waiver wire. Slaton's out, Moat's is in. Wrong. While Moats will see more carries in the second half, as mentioned above, this was a wake up message to Slaton, not a pink slip. Kubiak still believes in his star and he'll be right back out there for the next game. I would not waste a high waiver pick on Moats, but if you're in the bottom half and he falls that far, take a shot. However, don't expect Sunday's good fortune to happen again this season.
Why am I so sure Slaton isn't out of the starting mix? He's making starter money, Moats faced the league's worst rush defense, and with Owen Daniels out for the season, they'll need Slaton's pass catching ability now more than ever. Moats may get into a time share to push Slaton, but I don't see him replacing Slaton as the team's number one back.
Other strange running back replacements on Sunday included Terrell Owens out rushing the Bills Fred Jackson in yardage, and getting the team's sole rushing TD.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles were without Brian Westbrook so of course Leonard Weaver stepped up and rushed for a 41 yard TD on the team's third play. Westbrook's back up LeSean McCoy waited until the 4th quarter to run a 66 yarder back for a score in junk time. His stats minus that big run? Ten rushes for 16 yards. Ouch. Unless Westbrook looks to miss real time, Weaver is not worth grabbing.
The good news this weekend for fantasy owners was Steven Jackson and Matt Forte finally putting up first round pick numbers. Jackson's actually been doing it all season, minus the TDs. Forte's not been so solid. Despite yesterday's two scores, he still looked pedestrian against the league's third worst rush defense. Oh wait, I forgot LaDainian Tomlinson who also broke out for two TDs. He also continued to play poorly despite his scores, and managed a paltry 56 yards vs. the league's second worst rush defense, the Oakland Raiders. Didn't they just give up 300+ yards and 3 TDs to the Jets last week? Oh L.T., the magic really is gone.
Heading into Week 9 we have the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders all taking a mid-season break. So fantasy owners will be without Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Justin Fargas, Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene and Jamal Lewis. It's probably a good idea to start Adrian Peterson anyway, as he seems to score every week regardless.
Interestingly the four teams who are worst vs. the rush are all on Bye this week (Bills, Raiders, Browns, Rams). This week may be the hardest to predict for backs in part because so many bad teams are off, and in part because the rest of the bad rush defenses are playing terrible RBs.
Well, my RB start of the week for Week 8, Kevin Smith, was surprisingly underwhelming. I also had Slaton on last week's list, so I'm not sure if that counts as half a win or not. Let's try for a better top pick this week. Interestingly the four teams who are worst vs. the rush are all on Bye this week (Bills, Raiders, Browns, Rams).
Week 9 - RB Start of the Week - Maurice Jones-Drew
|I always feel like I'm cheating when I pick someone so obvious, but I can't help the fact that he's scheduled to face the Kansas City Chiefs this week. The Chiefs, through seven games, have surrendered the 6th most rushing yards to RBs, and the 9th most fantasy points to backs. MJD has had an incredible season so far, and as I predicted in my preseason rankings, he's the league's #1 RB at the midway point, averaging one fantasy point more per game than Adrian Peterson. This week MJD should tally over 140 total yards and 1 or two scores.
Shockingly, Smith was not the only guy who should have blown up last week who did nothing. The Dolphins Ronnie Brown was surprisingly quiet as well. Here's last week's Start/Sit if you wish to see how I did overall.
A Few More Fantasy Studs Who Should Rumble to the EndZone in Week 9
|Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG vs. SDC
|The Giants have struggled of late. Particularly Eli Manning. They need their running game now more than ever, and San Diego is one of the easiest teams to run against. Of the teams playing in week 9, they are the worst vs. the rush. The problem here is, no one knows from week to week which of these two backs is going to be the team's stud. They split carries pretty evenly. Both should have a solid game against the Chargers, but I'd bank on Bradshaw to find the endzone at least once.
|Ryan Grant, GB vs. TBB
|Grant has a nice match up this week against one of the league's woeful rush defenses. He he should easily break the century mark and score once of twice. Breakout alert: If Grant struggles at all, or if given the opportunity, we could see Ahman Green surface and be week 9's shock performance.
|Ray Rice, BAL vs. CIN
|The Bengals have been surprisingly solid vs. the rush, but this is they guy who bruised the Vikings. He may get more yards again as a receiver, but they still count in fantasy.
|Cedric Benson, CIN vs. BAL
|Like Rice above, he faces a solid rush defense, but he's the only RB in the league averaging 100+ yards per game. He's proven again and again you can't discount his abilities for the Cardiac Cats.
|DeAngelo Williams, CAR vs. NOS
|The Saints have had an atomic fantasy defense this season, but of late their rush defense has allowed guys to put up solid fantasy numbers. If Michael Turner can get 100 yards and a score, so can Williams (assuming Stewart doesn't steal his TD).
|Kevin Smith, DET vs. SEA
|Somehow, Smith failed to find the endzone vs. the Rams. Astonishing. This is the guy who was listed as doubtful and played against the Steelers top rush defense, and scored twice. We'll call last week an anomaly and look for Smith to find pay dirt this week against the Seasquabs.
|Chris Johnson, TEN vs. SF
|Johnson was the league's top RB in week 8, and he should have another 100 yards and a score against the 49ers in week 9.
|Frank Gore, SF vs. TEN
|The flipside of this game doesn't look as promising for the 49ers RB, but Gore is an odds defying kind of player. Ask the Colts. I think he'll put up about 80 yards and score at least once.
|Pierre Thomas, NOS vs. CAR
|Carolina's rush defense hasn't been much to speak of this season, and as we saw vs. the Falcons, Thomas is reasserting himself as the team's top back. He should be in for a solid fantasy day.
|Julius Jones, SEA vs. DET
|This pick makes my stomach turn because I have zero faith in Jones' ability. However, he is facing the Lions, and their rush defense stinks so I feel somewhat obliged to at least acknowledge that fact. If Jones stinks and the passing game needs help, Justin Forsett could surface. I only put Jones on the list this week because of the statistical match-up, but honestly, I wouldn't play him. Too much risk vs. reward.
Week 8's suggested sit was Ryan Grant, who was absolutely invisible against the Vikings, despite a history of being a guy who could beat them. Hopefully, I can do as well with this week's pick.
Week 9 - RB Sit of the Week - Cadillac Williams, TBB
|Cadillac continues to be the go-to-guy in the muddled Bucs run game, but this week he has a few things going against him: he's facing one of the league's best rush defenses, and his QB is playing his first real NFL game. This means the Pack's secondary will force the Bucs to turn to their running game, and GB can focus on shutting Williams down. It all adds up to, playing him only if you have no other alternative. Keep the Caddy in the garage this week.
Other RB Fugazzis facing tough match-ups in Week 9
|Jamaal Charles KCC vs, JAX
|Jamaal Charles is likely going to be starting this week in place of Larry Johnson, but there are two good reasons why he may not pay off in week 9. Foremost is the possibility, that against all odds, the Chiefs cave and play Johnson. However, assuming Charles does play (and I think he will) I don't see him exploding against the Jags like Chris Johnson did. Best case, I think Charles eeks out 75-80 yards with no score.
|Knowshon Moreno, DEN vs. PIT
|Moreno has been up and down, so he's hard to peg. Against the Chargers, whom he should have had a field day, he was terrible. This week he faces the league's toughest rush defense who have surrendered less than 60 rushing yards per game to RBs. Add Buckhalter into the mix, and it looks to be a quiet day for the rookie. No shon this week.
|Rashard Mendenhall, PIT vs. DEN
|The Broncos gave up their first loss last week, and I think this week may be two in a row. I also think Rashard may score in this game, but he is facing one of the leagues best all around defenses, and a top 5 rush defense. I'd still play him, but cross your fingers.
|LaDainian Tomlinson, SD vs. NYG
|On paper L.T. looks to have a decent day, but I wouldn't put money on that. The Giants have now lost three in a row, and Tomlinson has lost as many steps in his run game. It should be a air show for San Diego, and L.T. probably won't do much more than 40-50 yards. He might score, but I don't think so.
|Matt Forte, CHI vs. ARI
|Forte scored twice last week, but as mentioned above, his YPC were low, and his overall yards were unimpressive against such a poor rush defense. The Cardinals can be beat on the ground as the Panthers showed us in Week 8, but so far I'm not seeing much grit or power from Forte. You have to play him, but he should be back to his pre-week 8 numbers.
|Steve Slaton, HOU vs. IND
|I don't have him on this list because of last week's benching. He's here because he's facing the Colts. Frank Gore may have got the jump on Indy last week, but even Ryan Moats won't catch them off guard this week. He's just not a great play this week, even though you may have no choice.
|Ronnie Brown, MIA vs. NEP
|Ronnie has been surprisingly solid this season, even with Ricky Williams stealing his touches. I even think he could have a nice day against the Patriots. However, if in fact the Pats of old have returned, the Dolphins could be down early, meaning the team will rely more on the pass and Ricky Williams. He's still a play, but expect a quiet day and if he blows up, it will all be icing.
|Clinton Portis, WAS vs. ATL
|He looks better on paper than he does on the field. The Falcons are so-so against the run, but a younger Portis would have eaten them up. These days you never know which Portis you'll see. I think any week now he'll go down and Ladell Betts will step in. If last season's second half numbers are any indicator, it's going to be an ugly winter for Portis owners
|Reggie Bush, NOS vs. CAR
|Bush did score last week, but he's just not getting enough touches to rely on him most weeks, and I don't see him doing much this week against the Panthers.
|LeSean McCoy, PHI vs. DAL
|I like McCoy's opportunity in this game, but I think Westbrook may be back, and LeSean was not impressive at all last week barring his one big run near the end of the game.
The Coin Flip Kids - These guys could go either way this week:
|Laurence Maroney, NEP vs. MIA - The Dolphins have been pretty good against the run this season, but if the Patriots get a big lead early, they may look to Maroney frequently to manage the clock. Miami has surprised a few undefeated teams this year though by hanging in there. The Colts and Saints both had to come back late, and the Patriots could find themselves in the same position.
|Brian Westbrook, PHI vs. DAL - Will he play or won't he? If he does, how limited will he be? He has a nice match-up if he plays, but...
|Beanie Wells/Tim Hightower, ARI vs. CHI - If you own either of these guys you have probably started pulling your hair out by now. Who gets the carries this week? Who scores the TD this week? It looked like Wells was taking the reins, them Hightower scores in Week 8.
|Ricky Williams, MIA vs. NEP - I think he has a shot to do some good stuff vs. the Pats, but depending on how New England comes out the gate, Williams could be silent all day. Call it, heads or tailbacks?
|Joseph Addai, IND vs. HOU - I really like his chances to score, but I have no idea if he'll put up any significant yardage.
|Marion Barber, DAL vs. PHI - I think he'll have an 85 yard and a score kind of day, but he's been awfully hit or miss lately.
Risk/Reward Play of the Week - Michael Turner, ATL
|Turner is driving me nuts. He plays terrible most weeks, even though he often manages to stumble in for a TD. Then versus a team he should stink against, he goes off as he did Monday night against the New Orleans Saints (his game vs. the 49ers was another one). This week he faces the league's second stingiest rush defense, the Washington Redskins. Yes, I know, it surprises me too, but they've only given up two TDs so far. I'm not saying bench Turner, but the odds are against a big day. So since most people really don't have an alternative, and he seems to scrape a TD most weeks, he's probably going to start in most leagues. Me, I'm rolling the dice and playing a guy like Kevin Smith instead.
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