If you drafted wisely and have a strong bench, you will likely face lineup decisions on a weekly basis. Those decisions can often make or break fantasy seasons. For example, owners who started Daniel Jones or Matt Schaub over Kirk Cousins or Kyler Murray may have won in Week 8 due to a risky or bold call. However, if you decided to play Le’Veon Bell or Larry Fitzgerald over Miles Sanders or Devin Singletary, the decision may have cost you a victory. It’s small lineup decisions like those that can leave fantasy owners saying the dreaded words: “My bench outscored my starters.” Well in order for that not to happen, it’s vital to be aware of players drawing tough matchups who pose a significant risk to your fantasy success. Let’s take a look at several players who check that box in Week 9.
As always, I’m not telling you to sit all of these players. I am telling you to examine your bench to consider whether or not you have a better option.
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts (at PIT)
Brissett (owned in more than 93% of leagues) hits the road to face the 10th-best defense at Heinz Field in Week 9. The fourth-year signal caller was stellar in his first four games of the season. Taking over for the retired Andrew Luck, Brissett threw at least two touchdowns in each of those games.
However, over the past three weeks the developing quarterback has struggled in games against the Chiefs and Broncos, failing to throw a touchdown pass or top 202 passing yards in either contest. In Week 9, Brissett will face a stiff test against a Steeler defense that has made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks over the past three games with 10 and 10 forced turnovers.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (at NO)
Murray (owned in more than 99% of leagues) was highlighted last week in this feature. As feared, he struggled mightily in Week 8 against the Saints, accounting for just 233 total yards and no touchdowns. Fantasy owners had come to expect prolific yardage output, both through the air and on the ground from the dynamic young quarterback. Murray had previously topped 300 total yards in four of his first six career games.
On Thursday Night Football, Murray faces the undefeated 49ers. Halloween night’s game could very well be more ‘trick than treat’ for his fantasy owners. San Francisco currently boasts the best defense in the NFL. They tend to be a matchup fantasy owners avoid. Murray falls out of the top 20 in my rankings for the first time this season in Week 9. Owners are better served streaming Oakland QB Derek Carr, who has a favorable matchup with Detroit. In information provided to Sports Illustrated courtesy of Vegas Whispers, the sharps out in Vegas are fading the Cardinals at the betting windows, laying the 9.5 points on San Francisco. This further indicates that Murray could struggle to produce for the third straight game.
Sony Michel, New England Patriots (at BAL)
It is always difficult to sit players who get 15-plus touches on undefeated teams. However, Michel (owned in 98% of leagues) has failed to find the end zone in four-of-eight games this season. The second-year back out of Georgia has six touchdowns in eight games, but has failed to top 91 yards in any contest.
On Sunday night, he faces a Ravens’ defense on the road that has completely shut down opposing running backs this season. Over the past three games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Seattle, the Ravens allowed a meager total of 153 yards on the ground and no rushing touchdowns. In addition to facing the third-best run defense in the league, Michel will be difficult to trust with both Rex Burkhead and James White vulturing carries. Michel is a flex start at best in Week 9.
LeSean McCoy, Kansas City Chiefs (at MIN)
McCoy (owned in more than 96% of leagues) has posted double-digit PPR fantasy points in just three-of-eight games this season. The veteran back has failed to find the end zone in four straight games heading into a matchup with a Vikings’ defensive unit that has allowed a league-low one rushing touchdown (Aaron Jones back in Week 2). Owners should be wary of starting McCoy on the road in game the Chiefs are expected to be without star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a second straight week despite his return to practice.
The Kansas City backfield has become a weekly dart-throw, thanks to an unpredictable committee approach. Fantasy owners should avoid members of the Chiefs’ backfield in Week 9.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (at DEN)
Landry (owned in more than 93% of leagues) has scored double-digit PPR fantasy points in three of his last four games and has yet to find the end zone in 2019. Landry, who led the Browns in targets (10) and yards (65) in Week 8 against the Patriots, has significant risk this week on the road against the Broncos. Denver is the fourth-best defense against the pass, as they have only allowed six passing touchdowns on the season. The Broncos have held opposing wide receivers out of the end zone in four of the last five games (Jaguars, Chargers, Titans and Colts). Outside of Nick Chubb, it’s become very difficult to confidently start any member of the struggling 2-5 Cleveland offense.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs SF)
Fitzgerald’s production has fallen off the cliff over the past two games after a solid first six weeks where he posted double-digit PPR fantasy points in five of those contests. The 16-year veteran (owned in more than 95% of leagues) had a total of just three receptions for 20 yards in games against the Giants and Saints. On Thursday night, Fitzgerald will draw the best defense in the NFL.
The undefeated 49ers, who totally dismantled the Panthers in Week 8, have shut down opposing passing attacks, allowing a league-low 128.7 passing yards per game and just five touchdowns . The 49ers have not allowed an opposing wideout to top 46 receiving yards over the past three games. The Cardinals offense could struggle mightily on Halloween when rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, highlighted above, makes his most difficult start of his young career. Fitzgerald very likely will underperform for a third straight game.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers (at LAC)
Graham (owned in 85% of leagues) has just one touchdown over his last four games, disappointing owners with only one double-digit PPR fantasy-point performance. With the dominance of the Packers running backs in the Green Bay passing attack, and the potential return of star wideout Davante Adams, the veteran tight end presents significant risk to starting lineups. In Week 9, he has a matchup on the road against a Charger defense that has not been kind to opposing tight ends. Los Angeles has only allowed one opposing tight end to catch multiple receptions over the last five games, while only surrendering three touchdowns to the position on the season.
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