Thanks to my esteemed colleague Ryan Houlihan, the week nine fantasy article was business as usual for the gurus. Excellent picks such as Matthew Stafford, Chris Carson, and Baker Mayfield showed that Ryan can be trusted when filling in. There were some blemishes in his predictions with Dalvin Cook having his toughest game of the season against what has been a leaky Chiefs defense. Zach Ertz and Courtland Sutton both had big games. These all seemed like quality picks, but that’s just how fantasy football goes sometimes. Fresh off a bye week, I’m back with some strong predictions. 

Favorites:

QB- Kyler Murray(ARI): Kyler is quickly becoming my favorite quarterback in the NFL. As the number one draft pick, Kyler has met and exceeded the expectations already. Murray may have been my least favorite pick last week against the stingy Niners D, but an 88-yard touchdown to Andy Isabella was key to him scoring a surprising 23 points. Murray’s low TD rate early in the season was bound for positive regression and it showed against the Niners last Thursday. Murray gets a juicy matchup against a terrible Buccaneers pass defense that allowed 5 passing TDs to Russell Wilson. Expect huge numbers through the air from Kyler en route to another top-12 performance. Start him over almost any other quarterback. If he can get anything going on the ground this week, you may see a 30-point plus performance for the rookie stud against the Bucs.

My projection: 25 points

RB- Josh Jacobs(OAK): Between Jacobs and Murray, it seems to be a two-horse race for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jacobs has been huge for the newly improved Raiders offense.. After 120 yards and 2 TDs performance, Jacobs has upped his stock as a true workhorse. The only thing holding back his Point Per Reception (PPR) upside, is his lack of involvement in the passing game. Jacobs was the pass catching back at Alabama. But so far, it hasn’t translated to the NFL. With only 11 receptions on 15 targets this year, Jon Gruden needs to give him at least four targets a game to allow Jacobs to unlock the rest of his arsenal. Until then, Jacobs may be a touchdown dependent RB2. He is a lock as a top-12 RB against the 23rd ranked run defense of the Chargers. They handled the Packers offense well last week, but Jacobs should be able to exploit holes, similarly to Derrick Henry in week seven. 100 scrimmage yards and a TD seem easily achievable for the Crimson Tide product. My projection: 16.9 points

WR-Mike Evans/Chris Godwin(TB): There’s no way to single out either one of these star wideouts as the clear favorite this week. Both Godwin and Evans have had monster games this year and have proven they can both start with confidence every week. They have a soft matchup against the Cards, who got tricked and treated on Halloween by Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. They have been the worst defense against tight ends all year. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians reluctantly uses O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate. Expect all targets from the TE position to catch specialist Mike Evans, while Godwin does the dirty work. Both Godwin and Evans should be WR1s, against arguably the worst pass defense in the league. The return of corner Patrick Peterson, who will most likely shadow Evans, casts even more risk for him. Even with Peterson, both guys are must-starts for the week. My projection: 19.4 (Evans), 18.1(Godwin)

TE- Jared Cook(NO): Cook has been a major letdown in the high-powered Saints offense, albeit a few external factors have played a role in his slow start. First, Drew Brees’ injury took away much of Cook’s upside that was hyped up in the offseason. After a few adjustment weeks from Teddy Bridgewater, Cook had back-to-back games with touchdowns and over 12 PPR points in both weeks. Unfortunately, Cook suffered an ankle injury that forced him out of the Bears and Cardinals matchups. After the bye, expect Cook to be healthy and back to being involved in the Brees led offense. On a week without Ertz, Goedert, or Darren Fells, the waiver wire is thin for an already weak position. Start Cook if you’re in need of a bye week fill in, but proceed with caution. The Atlanta Falcons defense is terrible and Cook should have the opportunity to catch a few passes and a touchdown.  My projection: 13.3 points

Least Favorites:

QB-Josh Allen(BUF): Allen has been somewhat disappointing as a fantasy player this year. He is a much improved QB on the season with a huge jump up to 60.9% completion percentage. Unfortunately, his rushing numbers are down from last season, averaging just over six points per game rushing the ball. He has been a middle-of-the-pack finisher on a majority of weeks and is definitely startable most weeks. However, he has not scored over 22.2 points in a single week.  Eventually, he is going to have a 30-plus point outing, but most likely, it won’t be against a solid Browns pass defense. Allen will be a top-18 quarterback this week. But the upside just isn’t there, especially against a defense known for blitzing quarterbacks and forcing turnovers. My projection: 17 points  

RB- Devonta Freeman(ATL): Freeman has turned his fantasy season around in a hurry, scoring top-15 numbers over the past five weeks. Coming off the bye, the Falcons offense should be better with a healthy Matt Ryan. But Freeman may be the odd man out as the Saints are excellent against opposing running backs. Freeman should average around five passes in the game, but rushing yardage is not going to come easy. The Saints also have a porous pass defense, which should allow for Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper to explode. Freeman may be gamescripted out in the run and splitting time with Ito Smith in the pass catching game won’t help matters. Start him as a high-end flex option, but temper expectations in this difficult matchup. My projection: 13.1 points

WR- Sammy Watkins(KC):  Watkins had a monster week one where he exploded for 46.8 full PPR points. Since then, he has scored just 51.5 points in six active weeks. He missed two full games with a hamstring injury and was forced out of another early. Watkins has only scored over 10 PPR points in 27 percent of his career games, which is astoundingly low. When he is fully healthy, he can deliver week winning fantasy numbers. Unfortunately, his health is questionable.  You can start Watkins as a decent flex option against a tough Titans pass defense only if Patrick Mahomes is back. If Matt Moore is at the helm again, fade Watkins as nothing more than a deep league WR3 and low end flex. He will likely see either Logan Ryan or Adoree’ Jackson line up opposite him, and neither are inviting matchups for the Chiefs playmaker. My projection: 9.9 points

TE- Vance McDonald(PIT): There are many names that can be considered least favorites at tight end. None have been more disappointing than either Vance McDonald or O.J. Howard. Howard is banged up as of now, but Vance has just been fantasy hogwash this year. The injury to Big Ben derailed his season before it even started. He had two decent games all season, but they were strictly because of touchdowns. He has not had more than 40 yards in a game all season and had three games scoring under five points in PPR. He is a touchdown dependent top-18 tight end against a league average Rams pass defense. Look for other options this week and beyond. My projection: 6.7 points

5 midseason waiver stashes

  1. Josh Gordon: After being released by the Patriots last week, Gordon walked into a great situation in Seattle. He serves as a deep threat for the league MVP Russell Wilson, which should give him quality fantasy performances.
  2. Antonio Brown: Multiple sources have indicated that Brown has been receiving interest from a number of teams. The Seahawks evaluated him before deciding on Gordon, so I’m sure he will catch on to another team soon. My gut is telling me that Antonio Brown will be back with the Pats and back to a WR1. Look for the Eagles to show interest as well after DeSean Jackson’s reinjury.
  3. Kareem Hunt: Although it seemed like he wouldn’t have a role in the Browns’ offense since Nick Chubb’s surgence, things are looking up for Hunt’s value. Chubb has had back-to-back mediocre weeks including a pair of fumbles against the Pats. Freddie Kitchens said that Hunt would have a role in the offense. Expect him to see double digit touches weekly. Hunt can be flexed and may even have sneaky RB2 value against some soft matchups coming up.
  4. Ty Montgomery/Bilal Powell: Both of the Jets’ backups would be in line to share the workload if Le’Veon Bell’s knee injury is anything long term. Even if the MRI on Bell is precautionary, these two should be given a look on waivers by both Bell owners and RB desperate teams. Powell would most likely get the majority of carries, but the passing work should be Montgomery’s for the taking.
  5. Alexander Mattison: If you own Dalvin Cook and do not have Mattison, you need to wake up! Cook has been unreal for fantasy owners this year, but he has a long injury past.  You need to handcuff Mattison because the dude can ball, too. He is kind of a similar type player to Cook. He has proven to be a tough runner for short periods. If Cook was to go down with an injury, Mattison would be a must start, top-15 back in every format. Wasting bench spots on handcuff backs is a no-no, but players such as Mattison or Montgomery are worth the add.

FYI:  Do you want some additional fantasy help, or love sports in general?  If so, listen to The Untitled Sports Broadcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Me and my fellow co-hosts Ryan Houlihan and Drew Dykowski will be releasing the debut episode later this week. We will cover everything in sports ranging from: more of our favorite fantasy plays, bets of the week, top-10 lists, and more. Follow us on Twitter @TheUSBcast!