Week 9 in the NFL featured several notable performances that either left fantasy owners ecstatic or scratching our collective heads. Players like Christian McCaffrey shined while others never even showed up (looking at you Chicago Bears) on Sunday. Whether you need a miracle on Monday night or are sitting comfortably with a lead, let’s review some critical topics for fantasy football from Week 9.
Is it Melvin Gordon’s backfield again?
After a disappointing start to the 2019 NFL season, the Los Angeles Chargers entered Week 9 with a 3-5 record and needed a change. Head coach Anthony Lynn stated, “There was no flow,” in regards to the Chargers’ ground attack. “There’s no rhythm. It was time for a change.” Management agreed with his sentiment and fired longtime offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Their replacement came in the form of quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen to serve as the Chargers’ new offensive play-caller. Sunday, we got our first glimpse of what this new running game and backfield might look like, and depending on which players you own, you might have mixed feelings.
With the new focus on the rushing game, Melvin Gordon had his best performance of the season. Carrying the ball 20 times for 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Gordon was the focal point of two running backs. Looking deeper into the box score gives another indication as to why this might continue down the road. Gordon set a season-high with a 66% snap rate while Ekeler played in a season-low 35% of the snaps. On the outside, this might look like a simple correlation of the Chargers dominating the game and wanting to hold onto the ball and utilizing the rushing game to do it. However, the numbers in the first half were very similar. Gordon saw 60% of the snaps, and Ekeler was on the field for 37% of their offensive snaps.
Using this game as an example of what the rest of the season may look like, I will be basing my rankings and projections on a similar 60/40 workload split between them. Moving forward, Gordon projects as an RB2 with lower-tier RB1 upside with Ekeler as a low-end RB2 or RB3 but gets an upgrade in PPR scoring formats.
The Chicago Bears: A Tale of Two Halves
Whatever that first-half game plan head coach Matt Nagy installed before their game on Sunday can go straight into Lake Michigan and never be talked about again. The Bears finished the first 30 minutes with just nine yards – total – against a Philadelphia Eagles’ defense that was considered as a decent fantasy matchup entering the week due to their exploitable pass defense. It was their fewest yards in one half in 40 years, per Elias Sports Bureau.
A lot of that blame falls squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Mitch Trubisky who completed 6-of-13 passes for 24 yards in the first half, making the offense completely one dimensional. With boos cascading down from the home crowd calling for back up Chase Daniel to come in, Trubisky finished with 6.50 fantasy points. Trubisky’s play is killing the value of all the wide receivers for the Bears, especially for Allen Robinson. Robinson routinely can beat one-on-one coverage and get separation, but without a quarterback to get him the ball, it’s all for nothing.
The lone bright spot for fantasy football owners was running back David Montgomery, but there is more to it when we review his box score. Yes, he scored 22.60 points in PPR, but both of his scores came on goal-line carries, and he averaged just 2.9 ypc on his 14 carries for 40 yards. One play that won’t be found when looking at the stats is a dropped pass that could have easily been a long gain or his third touchdown of the day. I am not as concerned for him, however, as this is back-to-back RB2 value games, and he should maintain close to that as the season progresses.
Regardless of the second half turn-around, something needs to change at quarterback if the Bears want to move forward and try to compete in their division. Whether Nagy will do this or not is another discussion entirely.
The end of Minshew Mania?
The rise of our mustached friend, Gardner Minshew, has been one of the best stories of the season. Minshew’s hot streak of high-level play and instant connection with fellow rookie D.J. Chark Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) made for some of the best waiver wire adds of the season when we review fantasy performances. After Sunday’s game in London against the Houston Texans, Minshew’s four turnovers might have sealed it as his last start.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a bye in Week 10, giving Nick Foles a legitimate chance of taking back over as long as his collarbone has fully healed. It’s hard to imagine the team wants to leave a player on their bench who they agreed to pay $88 million over the next four years just seven months ago. The combination of 11 turnovers (7 from lost fumbles) and Foles’ health make it hard to think Minshew will be available for fantasy owners when they return in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts.
If you have the roster spot available or own Minshew, head to the waivers and see if someone dropped Foles since his injury. Startable fantasy quarterbacks have been hard to come by at times.
Quick Notes from Week 9:
- Adam Thielen and DeSean Jackson both made their returns from injury in Week 9, and then promptly left with injuries. Thielen reaggravated his injured hamstring, and until we know more should be considered week-to-week. As for Jackson, he entered the game “active” but seemed to have issues with his injured abdomen. Jackson finished the day with a single catch, and until we know more, it’s hard to speculate on his availability. The Philadelphia Eagles have a bye in Week 10, giving Jackson another week of rest. Which makes me question the decision even to have him on the field at all.
- The Miami Dolphins won a game. I can’t believe I just wrote that out. Not only did they beat the New York Jets, but rookie wide receiver Preston Williams shined in this game catching 5 of his 9 targets for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, not everything is sunny in Miami as Williams was carted off in the fourth quarter with what is being called a “left knee injury.” With an MRI scheduled for Monday, the extent of time Williams will be out won’t be known until they review the results. DeVante Parker will look to step up to take on the extra workload, but this is a severe downgrade to the Dolphins’ passing game.
- After losing RB Kerryon Johnson for the season on IR, Matthew Stafford has stepped up big and given a substantial boost to their passing game. Both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are seeing a steady flow of targets and crucial red zone attempts, leading to several scoring chances. So long as the Detroit Lions lean on Stafford’s arm for wins, both wide receivers are WR2/WR3 players, respectively, for fantasy football.
- If you have Christian McCaffrey, I’m jealous. So is every other fantasy football owner honestly. He is really good at football, and I don’t need to write anything else to tell you that. McCaffrey could be $12k in DFS next week against the Green Bay Packers, and I’d still find a way to have him in every lineup and not even care.
- Looking forward, Week 10 is going to be brutal. There are six teams on a bye, and waivers claims will be extremely important for fantasy owners scrambling to put together lineups. Be the savvy owner in your league and don’t just focus on who was added, but who was dropped as well. Desperate owners will make odd moves in hopes no one notices so they can grab them again next week. There could be a chance to gain an advantage here if you pay attention.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.