With the bye week over, the second half of the season officially begins for the Jaguars. Now I know you've heard it before, but this team really is better than the record suggests. The offense has a dynamic set of WRs, a big-time TE, a rookie RB that is finding his groove in the NFL, and a young QB with one of the biggest arms in the NFL.
This season isn't over by far, as only one game separates the Jaguars from the division leaders (Colts and Texans are tied at 3-5). All it will take is a small winning streak to catapult the Jaguars in front of the pack and into the playoffs! Even if that doesn't happen, if people just stick with me for another season or two, the Jaguars could be the new Bengals (shocking the AFC with their complete team).
The big free agent acquisitions this week in fantasy football were DeAngelo Williams, Jeremy Langford, Malcolm Floyd, and Vernon Davis. Another FA that might have flown under the radar in some leagues is Pierre Thomas. With Blaine Gabbert in at QB for the 49ers and Carlos Hyde hurting with a fractured foot, you can be sure that Thomas will see plenty of work early and often as a check-down option. We all KNOW what Gabbert can't do, which is why I am recommending you play Thomas right off the bat!
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: Big Ben looked horrible last week against the Bengals, which is why a lot of people are considering sitting him until they see he is healthy. I'm going against the grain here and starting him because he 1) is in a must-win game every week now, 2) has a chip on his shoulder about last week, and 3) will have to make up for Le'Veon Bell being out. The Raiders did a number on the Jets last week, so this is far from a bye for the Steelers. I don't expect to see another running game from both sides this week.
Jay Cutler – Bears: A lot of owners are being scared off from Cutler with Matt Forte being out, but not me. Langford is in at RB this week, and rookies tend to struggle to put up numbers, especially on the road. I'm looking for Cutler to use Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett as safety nets to move the ball if Langford proves to be ineffective. If you own Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, I'd seriously consider seeing if you can plug Cutler into your lineup.
Dion Lewis – Patriots: Lewis has more PPR value than standard value, but that doesn't mean he isn't still an RB1 in both formats given the Redskins defense. Now I will give you that they have done fairly well against RBs so far this season (21.5 PPG in PPR formats). Nevertheless, the Patriots are on a mission this year and Lewis is their new Kevin Faulk. And anyone who played fantasy football in the mid 90s remembers that Faulk was a must-own player in all formats.
DeAngelo Williams – Steelers: Speaking of the Steelers, Williams takes over for Bell and becomes an instant plug-and-play RB in Week 9. The Steelers have to win games, and Williams has proven he is an effective fantasy asset when he gets the touches. There's nobody to push him for carries in the backfield, and the Steelers have to score to win because the defense sure isn't going to do it for them. He is an instant RB1 in most formats from here on out.
* Pierre Thomas – 49ers: Thomas enters into the best and worst situation he could hope for at this point in his career. The 49ers are without Hyde (likely held out until after their Week 10 bye), are forced to put in Gabbert at QB, and have no real playmakers at WR or TE now that they traded Davis to Denver. Enter Thomas, who is sure to be a PPR monster with all the check-downs he will see from Gabbert when he gets flustered in the pocket. Obviously Williams is the big FA this week, but Thomas is a sneaky 1b option if you missed out.
Stevie Johnson – Chargers: Keenan Allen is out for the season with a lacerated kidney, putting Johnson and Floyd in the starting lineup. Melvin Gordon has been a disappointment, and without Allen now, I am looking for the Chargers to use Danny Woodhead more in the passing game. With that, Johnson will see a jump in targets as the Chargers pass more. Johnson is the new #1, with Antonio Gates probably #2 for targets, Woodhead #3,and Floyd #4.
DeSean Jackson – Redskins: The Redskins are hurting, both on offense and on defense. Their QB situation is iffy at best, their RBs are backups at best, and their most productive WR is rookie Jamison Crowder, who still hasn't scored a touchdown. So Jackson coming back is huge for a team in a division where the leader has a .500 record (NY Giants). D-Jax has immediate WR2 value, with real upside as the Redskins should be passing from behind all game long.
* Allen Hurns – Jaguars: With the Jets sure to focus on stopping Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas, Hurns becomes my sleeper pick at WR this weekend. The Jaguars have proven already this season that they can put up offensive numbers against tough defenses, and I fully expect them to do so again this week as they come out of their bye. Hurns is more of a flex or W3 play than anything, but someone I think that will go largely unowned in those DFS leagues because of the Jets secondary.
Antonio Gates – Chargers: Gates is getting up there in age, and this is probably his last productive (if not in general) season in the NFL. The beautiful thing about that is the Chargers need him now more than ever with Allen out. I see Philip Rivers leaning on Gates heavily whenever they get near the redzone, and that should lead to a TD (or two) from the future Hall of Fame tight end. We all know that TE is a boom-or-bust position in fantasy football, so all he needs is a few catches for 50-plus yards and a score to propel himself to the top of the positional rankings for Week 9.
Atlanta Falcons defense: No, the Falcons defense isn't any better today than it was yesterday. But the 49ers are worse than they were, with Gabbert being thrown into a starting role. I doubt the Falcons will hang a 0 on the 49ers side of the scoreboard for their fantasy owners, but you can be sure they are going to put points on their side, forcing the 49ers to use Gabbert to throw if they want to make it look good. When he throws, good things happen to fantasy defenses!
Andrew Luck – Colts: Luck has been atrocious this season, and the Colts fired OC Pep Hamilton to try and solve the problem. The issue the Colts have though is Luck has been as erratic as they come, and the roster has been… well… streamlined. The Broncos have an elite defense that made Aaron Rodgers look completely out of place in Week 9. If they can do that to the Packers who were 6-0 heading into that game, imagine what they will do to a Colts offense that is actually trailing in the "points for" department in their own division (Indy – 173; Houston – 174).
Aaron Rodgers – Packers: This one perplexes me a little because the Panthers have allowed just 24 more points than the Broncos this season, and we all know what Rodgers didn't do last week against the Broncos. I just have a feeling that there are better options out there over a QB who fell flat on his face last week and just barely ranks in the top 10 for fantasy QBs (9th place, just 3 points ahead of Joe Flacco in 10th and 5 points ahead of Alex Smith in 11th). Rodgers is not a must-start QB at this point of the season.
Melvin Gordon – Chargers: There is really nothing new to say about Gordon other than he is not a starting-caliber fantasy RB, and people are plugging him into that role simply because they wasted a high 4th-round pick on him. Even against a weak Bears defense on Monday Night Football, I don't see how you can trust an RB who is averaging 3.71 YPC (yards-per-carry) and hasn't scored yet this season when Woodhead is averaging 3.84 YPC, 11.10 YPR (yards-per-reception), and has 4 TDs this year.
Alfred Morris – Redskins: Morris and Matt Jones are stuck in the dreaded Running Back by Committee in Washington, which means neither has true fantasy value. What's worse is Morris is a non-factor in the passing game, and is averaging just 3.3 YPC on the ground. Jones is putting up 4.0 YPC and has 3 TDs to Morris' 0. I would prefer to have an open roster spot than carry Morris on my fantasy team at this point. He just isn't worth playing as anything more than an emergency bye-week filler.
Anquan Boldin – 49ers: Anyone who reads my articles or asks me for advice via email or Social Media knows that I don't sugarcoat anything, and I won't start now. The 49ers QB situation is probably the worst in the NFL, which makes Boldin highly overrated with ownership hovering around the 75 percent range in fantasy leagues. I wouldn't care if the 49ers got Jerry Rice in his prime right now, I wouldn't play him with Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick under center! Look for the Niners to run the ball and check down often when they do pass.
Jamison Crowder – Redskins: With Jackson back, Pierre Garcon and Crowder are going to take a backseat in the target department. Add in Jordan Reed back to full health, and you have the end of the waiver wire gem run of Crowder. The reality is Crowder's targets have been on the decline since his Week 4 high of 12. He's never topped 65 yards just once and hasn't scored. When you look back on his games, Crowder was never really worth playing after of Weeks 4 & 5.
Vernon Davis – Broncos: The reality is that Davis will take a month or so to adjust to his new QB, new playbook, and new OC before he makes a meaningful fantasy impact. Far too many owners are going to be excited about him being paired with Peyton Manning to notice that he may only play about half the Broncos offensive snaps. I'd find other options that are safer as Davis is too new and Manning is too old for them to click in their first game together.
Benjamin Watson – Saints: I have a feeling I've seen this before with Watson this season, back in Week 6 when he went off for a 10/127/1 line and followed it up with a 4/59/0 line the next week. Watson put up 9/147/1 last week against the Giants, and people are jumping all over him this week in the hopes they can get a repeat line off the waiver wire. My problem is I could totally see him having the inverse line of 4/59/0 again like he did last time. I'm going to sit Watson and roll my dice with someone else this week at TE.
San Diego Chargers defense: With Forte out, and the Bears defense in shambles, the Chargers ownership is trending upward on Yahoo this week. Did these people not consider that the Chargers are ranked DEAD LAST for fantasy defenses this season? They've allowed up the 3rd-most points for defenses at 209, their ranked 19th in the NFL with 15.0 sacks, 23rd for INTs with 4, and 24th in return yards (for leagues that count that as a defensive stat) with 396 yards. Even if the Chargers were playing the 49ers, I'm not really sure I'd want to trust them on my team.