- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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Ahem. With apologies in advance to the great Judith Viorst…
My phone battery died overnight so my alarm didn't go off and I woke up late. Then I stubbed my toe on a toy truck of my daughter's and it took forever to put in my contacts and then we were out of hot water for the shower and because I was late I cut myself shaving and as I got in my car to drive to work last Sunday morning, I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
At breakfast with everyone from "Fantasy Football Now," Tim had his egg dish prepared just right and Robert got his drinks and Sara's yogurt and fruit cup looked delicious and Stephania had to step away because she was getting some really good inside info on Jimmy Graham, and for me the only bagel they had left was onion. I hate onion bagels.
C.J. Spiller is going to be inactive and it continues to be a lost, brutal season for Spiller and once again everyone reminds me on Twitter that I was really high on Spiller in the preseason. One of our reporters tweeted that DeMarco Murray was going to be active and then I retweeted it and then DeMarco Murray was ruled inactive and then I can't update my ranking of Joseph Randle because I'm on TV and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Later in the show Chris Mortensen comes on to give us some inside info and to discuss his ESPN War Room league matchup with me. I have Roddy White still out and Danny Woodhead on a bye. He has Peyton Manning and Knowshon Moreno, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and the Seattle defense, all with great matchups. He also picked up Marvin Jones of the Bengals and is going to use him against me. I point out that I liked the pickup, that Jones has scored in two straight games and that they really like him in Cincy. In a 16-team league, I say, he's a good grab. Everyone laughs at me, not taking what I say about Jones seriously and accusing me of trying to reverse-jinx Mort. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I could tell because Mort is in my division, I'm the defending champ so everyone is gunning for me and I really need a big game from Rob Gronkowski. He gets a 40-yard touchdown called back because of a shaky holding call and finishes with four points in our PPR league. And because I own Stevan Ridley, I am acutely aware that he once again isn't in the game in the first quarter and Brandon Bolden now has a score in two straight and at the end of the game they are using LeGarrette Blount to run out the clock, not Ridley, even though Ridley averaged over 5 yards a carry in this game and it's only because Blount is so terrible and can't convert his goal-line carry that they give Ridley a carry, but their first choice was Blount. Tom Brady is bad again and I started Julian Edelman in a 14-team half-PPR league and he does nothing and I lose that matchup by four points. I hate the entire Patriots offense.
In the Howard Stern show league, I am playing my archrival, producer Will Murray. Coming into this week, he is in first place with a 10-4 record (we play two games a week, as the top five scoring teams get a win as well as the head-to-head matchup winners) with 744 total points. I am 9-5 but with 787 points so we are right there next to each other. I need to beat Will to keep pace and it's a 10-team, three receivers, 6 point per TD pass league with deep benches and he has Drew Brees and I have Marques Colston and Darren Sproles. Brees throws five touchdown passes and scores 43 points and Colston and Sproles combine for one point. I lose two games thanks entirely to those two players, who, I say again, managed just one point combined in a game where Brees threw for five touchdowns and 332 yards. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
That's what it was, because in a league where my partner and I are second in points overall but our record is 4-3, we were facing Calvin Johnson and Andy Dalton. We lost with the second-most points in the week. Again. "We'll get them next week," my partner says. "Next week," I say, "All our players are on bye."
In the afternoon games, Marvin Jones can't stop scoring touchdowns. The guy who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, who played only 19 snaps in the entire game, the guy going against a Jets defense that, prior to Sunday, had given up only one score to an opposing wide receiver in the past three weeks and had not given up more than one touchdown to opposing wideouts in six of its previous seven games ... keeps scoring. Once, twice, three times, four touchdowns and Mort is merciless with his trash talk, a nonstop, three-hour verbal beatdown as his partner, Countdown producer Matthew Garrett, just laughs and laughs. I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told everybody. No one even answered.
After a promising start, my beloved Washington is getting killed by Denver. They're not just my team, they are also the favorite team of my 9-year-old son. And Robert Griffin III is our favorite player and our fantasy quarterback. And I put him in the "love" section. And he's playing horribly in both real life and fantasy. My wife texts me. "Connor says he wants to trade RG III. He's very upset. He took off his jersey."
I check my other scores. I am facing Brees in another league, and the Bengals defense. In the player version of our Gridiron Challenge game, where you fill out a weekly lineup and can start any player you want but you can only use a player once this year, I used Tony Gonzalez against Arizona, which has been absolutely destroyed by tight ends this year. Three catches for 26 yards against a team that had allowed eight scores and almost 800 yards in seven games to opposing tight ends, as Harry Douglas and Drew Davis go off. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
After the afternoon games I tape a segment for the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. There are some technical difficulties and it takes longer than usual. By the time I drive home, my daughters are already asleep, so I don't get to see them. I watch the Sunday night game with the boys, as we do every Sunday night. I have Jarrett Boykin in five leagues (of seven total) and own Jordy Nelson in just one. The one league I have Jordy in is the team I co-own with the 9-year-old. Jordy has a huge touchdown! I look over to high-five Connor. He's asleep. I can't even celebrate with him and it's the one league where we don't actually need points and I really needed Boykin to get one of those. My wife and the kids go to bed at halftime, I stay up. During the second half, I make notes on my laptop for the podcast we'll tape at 9 a.m. the next morning and it's been a long day, I'm tired and halfway through I hit the wrong button and lose all my work.
After the game, I get ready for bed, try to sneak quietly into bed in my dark bedroom and once again step on my daughter's toy truck. I get into bed. My wife is sleeping on my favorite pillow.
It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
My wife mumbles ... some days are like that.
Week 9 love/hate time as we hope for awesome, amazing, very good, not bad-at-all days ahead. As always, please use my rankings for specific questions as to whom I would start or sit, these are just some players I believe will exceed or fall short of expectations. I try to avoid obvious names unless there's an interesting reason to mention them, and one guy who never makes the days bad is Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information. Thanks to him for his contributions, and away we go.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 9
Tony Romo, Cowboys: Looked bad last week from a pure NFL standpoint (some big plays by Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams bailed him out fantasy-wise) and is averaging just 13 points a game in his past three. But he is throwing deep and getting a ton of yards after the catch. Only Brees has more touchdown passes at least 15 yards downfield than Romo and the Vikings are tied for the second-most touchdowns allowed on such throws. Top-five play.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Completing at least two thirds of his passes in six consecutive games; the only players in NFL history with longer streaks? Peyton Manning, Brees, Kurt Warner and randomly, Trent Green back in 2004. He has thrown for a touchdown in 11 straight games, it's a great matchup with Washington's horrific pass defense, so during Halloween week, why not start fantasy zombie Philip Rivers? Another top-five play for me this week.
Alex Smith, Chiefs: Colin Kaepernick. Tom Brady. Robert Griffin III. Sorry, just listing some of the quarterbacks who average fewer fantasy points per game than Alex Smith so far this season. He doesn't turn over the ball, he's playing the Bills; with six teams on a bye, that should be enough for you to start.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders: Another guy who is a good bye week fill-in type. I'm using him in the two leagues where I own Peyton. The rushing keeps his floor fairly high, because you know even if the passing isn't there, he'll get you something with his legs. Worth noting that he's averaging 7.4 yards per rush and 6.6 of them come before contact (both are the highest among qualified rushers). The Eagles are top 10 in most yards allowed before contact.
If you're desperate: With at least 17 points in his past three starts, I like Jake Locker off a bye against a Rams team that is on a short week. ... With a very banged-up run game, I could see Case Keenum having to throw a bit more in order to keep up with Andrew Luck. I like him to get into the 15-point range.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 9
Tom Brady, Patriots: It has come to this. How can you possibly feel good about starting him? Change his name and look at the stats and it's not even a question. He's got two passing touchdowns in his past four games. Let that stat sink in. Two. No team has allowed fewer passing touchdowns this year than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Meanwhile, it's not as if it's a great matchup for Ben. Only one game this year with more than one touchdown pass, the way you beat the Patriots is running the ball -- guess who is going to be a love at running back? -- while the Patriots should get Aqib Talib back for a pass defense that is sixth in the NFL and allows the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Three more Steelers offensive linemen left last week's game with injuries, it's just such a banged-up line that I don't see Ben having a ton of time here against a team that is tied for the eighth-most sacks.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Traditionally does not play well on the road and traditionally does not play well (in fantasy, at least) against the Browns. He's averaging just 204 yards a game against them and this year, the defense is legit. He had just 12 points against them in Week 2. Cleveland's defense has started to show a little bit of vulnerability, so Flacco's not a terrible start here, but don't expect miracles. Outside my top 15.
Running backs I love in Week 9:
Eddie Lacy, Packers: Fairly obvious name these days, especially in a week like this, but I wanted to bring this up: Since his return in Week 5, Lacy leads the league in carries, rushing yards and rushing yards after contact. And you don't expect this with Chicago coming to town, but it's actually a great matchup for him. Since Week 5, no team has allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than the Chicago Bears. I have him in my top three and if I were re-drafting today, he'd be a top-10 pick for me.
Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: See Roethlisberger, Ben, Big. The injuries to Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo have really hurt the Patriots run defense. Since Wilfork's injury, they've allowed at least 129 total yards to opposing running backs and have given up an average of 160 total yards. Bell gets his carries mostly between the tackles (69 percent) and only the Jaguars have allowed more rushing yards between the tackles than New England.
Ray Rice, Ravens: I know. Trust me, I know. Putting my faith in the idea that they spent the bye week figuring out the blocking issues and, because I don't expect Flacco to have a ton of success, I'm expecting a lot of checkdowns and/or handing it off to Rice. He averages over 100 yards a game against Cleveland in his career and the Browns are tied for the third-most rushing touchdowns allowed.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals: We know Bernard is the pass-catching running back (32 targets to three for the Law Firm). The Bengals have gone a bit pass-happy these days (helping Bernard) and the Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, including the fourth-most receiving yards per game to running backs.
Zac Stacy, Rams: I know he's banged up, but every time I watch this guy run, I love him more. He's averaging 2.1 yards after contact per rush, which is fourth highest among qualified rushers. Tennessee has a solid defense, but they are allowing a league-worst 1.8 yards after contact per rush. The power, the patience, if he's active, I'm playing him.
Chargers running backs: It's not just the fact they are playing Washington (though that helps), it's these two facts, which, by the way, you can probably win a bar bet with: Despite missing a game, Danny Woodhead has 45 targets, that's tied for second most among running backs. And there's only one player in the NFL to rush for 100 yards in consecutive games this season: Ryan Mathews.
If you're desperate: I thought Mike James ran well last week against the Panthers. Small sample size and all that, but James is averaging 4 yards per carry between the tackles, more than Knowshon Moreno, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson and yes, Doug Martin, among others. Over the past five weeks, the Seahawks have allowed the sixth-most rushing yards between the tackles and you know James will get a lot of work on the road at Seattle. ... Mike Tolbert now has four scores in his past three and, despite the return of Jonathan Stewart, should get a few shots at the end zone against the Falcons' 22nd-ranked run defense. ... Titans coach Mike Munchak says they want to get Shonn Greene 15 carries this weekend. Despite how well the Rams played against Seattle, this week, 15 carries against anyone gets you into flex consideration, especially because he'll get any goal-line work.
Running backs I hate in Week 9
Darren Sproles, Saints: Not just because of last week, though I ain't gonna lie, that didn't help. The issue is the red zone. Only four red zone targets in seven games. By comparison, in 13 games last season, Sproles was targeted 19 times in the red zone. He was a big part of what they wanted to do in close. Per Pro Football Focus, after averaging 33 snaps a game over the first four games (out of an average of 73), he has averaged just 20 snaps a game (out of 69) over the past three. Now, I do expect better things in the future, but not this week. The Jets have allowed only one receiving touchdown to a running back this season and they allow the fewest receiving yards per game to running backs.
Steven Jackson, Falcons: Doesn't look great, the line is a mess, the Falcons throw it all over the place and the Panthers have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league.
Trent Richardson, Colts: Hard to bench him this week with all the byes, but there's definitely reason to, as the man says, curb your enthusiasm. In the Colts' last game, Richardson nearly split snaps with Donald Brown (38 snaps and 14 rushes to Brown's 34 snaps and 11 rushes). Richardson has yet to total more than 60 yards in a game. It's actually a good matchup and they are off the bye, so hopefully the Colts worked on getting their run game straight, so my guess is you're starting him, but it's hard to generate excitement based on everything we've seen so far.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, Dolphins: Hard to see either guy as anything but a low-end flex against Cincy. Dolphins offensive line is a mess and the Bengals have allowed just one rushing touchdown in the past five weeks.
Wide receivers I love in Week 9
Keenan Allen, Chargers: In the past three games, Allen has been targeted 28 times, twice as many as the second-most targeted San Diego wideout during that stretch. And since Week 4, Allen has averaged 92.3 yards per game, sixth among wide receivers during that span. Oh, and Washington is terrible. I have him in the top 10 this week and I'm surprised I'm alone.
Josh Gordon, Browns: Hopefully last week taught you that you never bench Josh Gordon. Since he came off suspension, no player in the NFL has more targets or touchdowns on throws at least 15 yards downfield. Meanwhile, the Ravens have allowed six touchdowns on such throws, tied for second most in the league. He's not only a legit WR1 this week, as I feel as though I write every week, he's a top-15 guy for the rest of the season.
Denarius Moore, Raiders: The guy who gets all the targets going against a very bad secondary? Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it isn't true.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts: Might want to mark Saturday on your calendar. It'll be the last time you can still buy T.Y. Hilton at less than top-20 prices. Just needs a chance. Starting Sunday, Colts aren't looking back. The T.Y. stands for Thank You.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys: See Romo, Tony. Scored in four straight.
Jarrett Boykin, Packers: Don't care if James Jones plays or not. Love this kid. And so does Aaron Rodgers. There's enough passing in this Green Bay offense to support three fantasy-relevant wide receivers, especially with Jermichael Finley out. In the past three weeks, he has eight receptions on passes deeper than 10 yards downfield, tied for third most in the league. Meanwhile, the defense formally known as the Bears has allowed opponents to complete 58.4 percent of deep passes this season, third highest in the NFL. Plus, when you watch him, you can use your best Flavor Flav voice and be all "Yeah, Boooooy-kin." Fine, it needs work. But Jarrett doesn't.
If you're desperate: Since 2012, when Locker is at quarterback, Kendall Wright leads the Titans in targets and receptions and is tied for the most touchdowns. His catch rate is up 7 percent and only two teams have allowed more touchdowns to opposing wide receivers than the St. Louis Rams. Available in 65 percent of leagues. ... It's easy to dismiss Marvin Jones as a fluke, but red zone targets are red zone targets and my expectation is that A.J. Green will continue to draw more defensive attention. ... With Torrey Smith covered by Joe Haden, you could see Marlon Brown get some love. He scored against Cleveland in Week 2.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 9
The three Denver wide receivers are on bye this week, as are the Giants' three, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Then, you've got banged-up guys who might miss or be at less than 100 percent, such as Roddy White, Steve Johnson and James Jones. It's a bloodbath this week. Oh, I can tell you that I'm not super fired up about Mike Wallace, that I don't feel super-confident about any Patriots wideout and that Marques Colston shouldn't expect a "like" on his Facebook page from me anytime soon, but this week, I can't justify putting anyone on the hate list. It's all hands on deck time. Play 'em if you got 'em and good luck to you.
Tight ends I love in Week 9
Antonio Gates, Chargers: Gates in on pace for the most red zone targets in a season since 2008. Oh, and you may have noticed I don't think much of Washington's defense. Only Arizona has allowed more touchdowns to opposing tight ends than Washington.
Martellus Bennett, Bears: Only Jordan Cameron has been targeted more inside the opponents' 10-yard line among tight ends than Bennett. I expect Josh McCown to dump down a little more than Cutler and Green Bay is bottom six in terms of most yards and touchdowns allowed per game to opposing tight ends.
If you're desperate: Over the past three weeks, Kyle Rudolph leads the Vikings in targets, receptions and receiving yards, and it's a good matchup with Dallas, as only three teams give up more fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends than the Cowboys. ... Tim Wright has six or more targets in three of the past four and you expect the Bucs to be down to Seattle. ... Jermaine Gresham has at least six points in two straight and the Dolphins allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Tight ends I hate in Week 9
Heath Miller, Steelers: You already know I'm down on Ben. On top of that, the Patriots have allowed only two touchdowns to opposing tight ends all year and Heath is fairly touchdown-dependent for value.
Jared Cook, Rams: What do you think the Titans will say Sunday? "Lazy route running and drops? Yeah, we've seen that before. Suckas! Bwahahahahaha!" Should not be owned in ESPN standard leagues.
Scott Chandler, Bills: Yeah, yeah, he was targeted 11 times last week. Scored two weeks ago, had 70 yards last week. But the Chiefs have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends and are one of two teams yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end this season. Don't get cute.
Defenses I love in Week 9
New Orleans Saints: Geno, Geno, Geno. Rex Ryan gets to face his brother's defense and I prefer Rob's side in this battle. Available in 46 percent of leagues, the Saints have three 13-point games this year, they have the fourth-best scoring defense and Geno Smith has been known to turn it over a time or two. Only the Chiefs have more games of holding an opponent under 20 points. Averaging over three sacks a game and over two turnovers per contest, the Saints are your streaming defense of the week.
Indianapolis Colts: Eight points or more in four of the past five, you saw what they did to Peyton Manning, right? Case Keenum is not Peyton Manning. In other news, sky is blue, water is wet. Texans might be starting Deji Karim in this game at running back. Or Ben Tate with, like, one rib. Averaging three sacks a game, they've got a great shot at a couple of turnovers.
If you're desperate: I'd like them even more if Matt Barkley were starting for the Eagles, but the Oakland Raiders have been sneaky decent as a fantasy defense this year, especially at home, where they had double-digit days in all four games. The Eagles, meanwhile, have issues. ... The Baltimore Ravens have had two weeks to prep for a Browns team they usually dominate. Do you think Jason Campbell does it two weeks in a row? Exactly.
Defenses I hate in Week 9
New York Jets: Better in real life than fantasy, the Jets have forced only five turnovers this season, tied for second fewest in the league. And now they get the Saints. No thanks.
Chicago Bears: They are no longer the Bears. Three fantasy points in three of the past four, they are getting run over left and right. And now they are on the road at Green Bay. Too banged-up for me. No thanks.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- also loves the "Curious George" books and can't wait to parody those, too. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may also have heard: He's written a book.
5hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy