This week, as promised, I will unveil some of the biggest surprises and disappointments thus far this season. While there are many candidates, I chose a few, and going forward, I will try to update the biggest surprises and busts every week. Man, who saw that coming from Nick Foles, or a 3 TD performance from Darrell Young of the Redskins? This just goes to show the complete unpredictability of players week in, week out. Thus far, it seems the most volatile, and ever-changing performances this season have come from quarterbacks. As is with every week, I’m going to be right on a good number, but also strike out on other names on the list. I try to give better and better advice every week, but I’m still perfecting my formula, so bear with me. Without further ado, here is the Week 9 article to help you win your matchup this week.
Nick Foles – While this guy may never be an “elite” QB, after my hating on Eagles QBs in past weeks, it appears as if Foles should be the Eagles QB going forward. Granted, he’s not likely to ever go nuts like he did this past Sunday (becoming the 3rd QB to pass for 7 TDs), but he has done enough to take the reins of Philly’s QB. The Packers are susceptible against the pass, meaning Foles should have another good day.
Ben Roethlisberger – Roethlisberger rewarded fantasy owners with a solid performance (400 yards, 4 TD) amidst an inconsistent season thus far, and a slow beginning to the year. No matter what Big Ben’s stats look like week to week, at the end of the day, he always seems to be just inside the top 15 QBs every season. A date with the Bills should only enable him to further his success this season.
Mike James – James is the defacto RB1 in Tampa now that the Muscle Hamster is on the shelf for the rest of the season. After going off against the Seahawks stout run D for 158 yards, but 0 TDs, he should find it easier running against the Bucs. A repeat of 158 yards rushing may not follow, but he should be able to find pay dirt.
Andre Ellington – Rashard Mendenhall is dealing with an injured toe, and with a solid showing this week, Ellington may grab the starting gig for good. Reports say that Mendenhall will start the game, but Ellington will receive around 20 touches. In other words, Ellington will see more touches. Andre was my favorite to lead the Cardinals in rushing this season, and it appears I was right. Granted, in the past, it’s been hard to trust a Cardinals RB since Edgerrin James, but at least for now, Ellington seems legit. Temper expectations initially, as the Texans are good against the run, but Mendenhall’s day as starter (3.1 yards/carry) could be very numbered.
Emmanuel Sanders – He, like Mike Wallace, is incredibly frustrating week to week. While Sanders seems more consistent, he still plays second fiddle to Antonio Brown. Sanders’s role in Pittsburgh is the deep man, thus he will continue to live and die by a couple of catches for big yardage and scores. Coming off of two solid games (88 yards, 1 TD; 98 yards last week) Sanders is a solid play this week against Buffalo, but he could still leave owners hungry for a score.
Jake Locker – Locker had a horrendous game last week. 185 yards passing, 2 picks, and 1 short rush TD in a loss to the Rams. Yes, he can be elusive at times, and has shown flashes of potential this season. He also is known to drop goose eggs at the drop of a hat. The silver lining here is the Jaguars are the opponent this week, but Locker’s receivers are still suspect, meaning Locker could have another feast or famine day, with something closer to the latter more likely. Tread softly going forward.
Colin Kaepernick – Remember when the sports world was hailing Kaepernick, and saying he was the next great SF QB? Well, this season he has looked far from that, throwing for over 250 yards only twice all season, and having a couple goose eggs in between. He can run the ball, but this week against the Panthers, who are very solid defensively, it may be best to find another option if you can. Oh, how he wishes he had Michael Crabtree back.
Steven Jackson – The Falcons are agonizingly hard for me to watch this season, and Steven Jackson is no exception. The only silver lining here is the Seahawks are up next, who, despite being solid this season, have been gashed by the run two weeks in a row (first by Zac Stacy, then last week by Mike James). With the Falcons QB play in a funk, Jackson may be relied upon heavily this week. Tread softly here.
Trent Richardson – Either TRich is going to have a breakout game, or Donlad Brown may take over TRich’s role (averaging over 6 yards/carry). Yes, the Rams this week’s opponent are bottom of the pack in run defense, but TRich needs to re-discover his version of beast mode, and quickly.
Jericho Cotchery – I’m placing him here to prevent a mad dash to the WW. Yes, he had a 3 TD game, but so did Eddie Royal, and Marvin Jones, who had a 4 TD week. Since their big games both Royal and Jones have tapered off considerably. Any player can go nuts any given week, you have to look at the specific player, and his role in the offense. Cotchery’s is not a big role, thus don’t expect a repeat here against the Bills this week.
Case Keenum – Yes, I normally warn against breakout players based off of one solid game, but the Texans fans were 100% behind Keenum last week, and he looks the part of the Texans QB of the future, at least for now. The Fans, and Texans had seen enough of Schaub’s sub-par play this season. Now Keenum is starter, and while the going will get tougher against a nasty Cardinals secondary, there’s still sleeper potential here for this week. Just beware a pick or two could occur on downfield plays.
Carson Palmer – This is a weird case. The Texans have allowed the fewest pass yards per game, but only have three picks to show for it. Palmer has been picked off at least once each game, but still has Larry Fitzgerald. It seems Palmer could see his first pick game, given the Texans abnormally low INT total this season, but it’s equally as likely the Texans pick him off at least once. By this point in his career, you know what you’ll get if you start Palmer.
Seneca Wallace – In case anyone didn’t see last week’s Packers-Bears game, Seneca Wallace gave up in the 4th quarter. He didn’t look like he was trying to get completions, and he would rather take a sack than try to make a positive play. Would you want that as your starting QB? He has weapons around him, but it’s a question of whether or not he’ll use them wisely, or squander another game. Did I mention the Packers were thinking of bringing back Matt Flynn? Yep they are considering it.
Donald Brown – Brown is breathing down Richardson’s neck, and is receiving more and more touches per game. While it’s not safe to say Brown will land the gig soon, given TRich being new to the Colts offense, if TRich doesn’t improve his run game, Brown and his 6.3 yards/carry this season could at least earn a 50-50 split, if not the majority going forward this season.
Gio Bernard – Coming off of possibly the run of the year in the NFL, Bernard is a bit nicked up, and faces one of the top run defenses this week in Baltimore. Do I think Bernard will score? Yes. Do I think he will be held under 60 yards rushing? Quite possibly. You still start him, but back off your expectations at the same time for this week.
Ray Rice – He looks like a rice patty this season, not the same back who converted a 4th & 29 last season against the Chargers on a dump off by Joe Flacco. What’s changed? Nothing really, except no Boldin. The Ravens never really were a strong passing team since McNair, but, yes, Rice falling off like this is extremely frustrating. Let’s see if he can salvage part of the season this week against the Bengals.
Cecil Shorts – Shorts is the only play maker in the receiving game (ahead of Jones-Drew) in Jacksonville. Despite the below average QB play, there could be a sneaky score for Shorts against an extremely tough Titans’ defense, with the year long absence of Justin Blackmon. Worthy of a flex start.
Anquan Boldin – Since week 4, Boldin has exactly 14 receptions and 0 touchdowns. Sit Boldin this week, as he’ll struggle against the Panthers defense.
James Jones – If Jones and Co. had Matt Flynn throwing their way, Jones would have avoided this spot. Yep, that pretty much sums up what Wallace does to reliable fantasy starters.
Coby Fleener – Despite facing a Rams defense that is very hard on opposing tight ends, the loss of Reggie Wayne for the season means Luck will continue to look to his tight end going back to college, going forward. He may not grab a score, but Fleener should at least net fantasy owners around 70 yards receiving.
Charles Clay – Since a hot start to the season, Clay last eclipsed 40 yards receiving in week 5. There’s potential, as he’s still the 8th ranked TE, but his stock is falling fast it seems.
Joseph Fauria – Just as fantasy owners thought Fauria was surpassing Pettigrew on the Lions TE depth chart, Fauria still only has eight receptions on the season. Although the match against the Bears figures to be a shootout with Cutler coming off the DL, Fauria should play a minimal role.
Troy Polamalu – After only playing in seven games last season, Polamalu seems to be rounding into shape. He may not be the same nasty player he used to be, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a threat to pick off or level an opposing player any given week. Start him with confidence.
Mason Foster – He may never be a 5-sack guy at linebacker, but after last season’s 105 tackle, semi-breakout season, Foster may not even eclipse 80 tackles (would be a career low in three seasons). Maybe this Lavonte David kid stole all Foster’s fun.
Jason Pierre-Paul – The days when JPP was the elite option before J.J. Watt are over. With only 19 tackles and 1 sack on the season, JPP should not be in your lineup. No one would blame you if you dropped him to the wire for the rest of the season.
2013 Surprises and Busts through the midway point, or just past midway point
Philip Rivers – Welcome back to fantasy stardom Rivers, we’ve missed ya. With a career high completion percentage of 72.2% and 17 TDs this season, it’s hard not to start Rivers these days. I guess this isn’t really a surprise, as we all knew he had it in him.
Knowshon Moreno – After totaling 704 yards rushing the past two seasons with 4 TDs (and 1 receiving TD), Moreno has 8 rushing TDs this season, and could eclipse the 1,000 yard plateau. Peyton is proving to be a rejuvenation for Moreno.
Alshon Jeffery – The much anticipated breakout finally occurred from Jeffery. With 621 yards receiving and 3 TDs, Jeffery is one of this season’s pleasant surprises.
Ray Rice – After being a fantasy force since coming into the league, Rice has left fantasy owners wishing they never drafted him, with 259 yards rushing, 3 TDs, and 135 yards receiving. There’s always next season, right??
Julius Thomas – Truly the steal of the season if you got him late or off the waiver wire. Thomas is Manning’s top option in the red zone, and nearly impossible to cover 1-on-1 at 6’5″. With 8 TDs this season, you know to continue to start him with confidence as your TE. He may not be Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski-esque, but he appears to be the next best thing.
Mario Williams – With 11 sacks on the season, Mario seems to be quickly rekindling the fire under his rear. Once one of the most feared DEs, Williams has been a total monster for the Bills this season. Fantasy owners only desire he’d rack up a few more tackles and forced/recovered fumbles.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy – With 596 yards rushing, and 4 TDs, it’s hard to argue Lacy is not the R.O.Y. Green Bay seems to have found their RB of the future.
Defensive R.O.Y.: Kiko Alonso – Man, this guy is nuts. Alonso has all the makings of a perenial fantasy stud and beast in the Bills defense with 89 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 1 forced and recovered fumble apiece. Definitely the surprise of the season for fantasy owners.
As always readers, please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, questions, likes, or bashings on this post, and remember to hit the Twitter handle @MetalhammerBen.
See ya next week!