Week 9: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades is intended for fantasy football diehards. Each week when setting a lineup, a closer analysis is necessary to find out which players are destined for a great performance. Sometimes it is a favorable matchup or it can be as simple as an increased role due to an injury. Very few players are matchup-proof in this game. For every Aaron Rodgers or Ray Rice, there are a dozen players who could potentially be interchangable depending upon a number of factors.
This weekly article isolates your best options for a statistical breakout from Week 1 to Week 17. Let FFToolbox do the homework for you! Instead of scouring the waiver wire and opening up 20 tabs to compare and contrast players, let Player Upgrades be your guide. Each week, we will identify seven players (typically two QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE) that you should consider starting and we'll break each player down with some analysis.
Just when you believed it was safe to sleep on Cam Newton, here come the dysfunctional Washington Redskins and their pass defense ranked dead-last in the NFL. Washington is allowing 314.2 pass yards per game and are tied with two other teams in allowing the most 40-plus yard pass plays (seven). To add insult to injury, nobody has given up more passing TDs (19) or first downs via the pass (180). All this said, Newton has not been playing that well recently. Carolina is on a five-game losing streak and Newton only has one passing TD in his last three games. Even with those aforementioned struggles, Newton is still ranked among the Top 12 fantasy QBs in most leagues, so his so-called difficulties are distorted because of his team's collective ineptitude.
Reports that hinted Michael Vick would be benched in favor of rookie QB Nick Foles appear to be premature. Thankfully for Vick owners, the Eagles' brawl with the atrocious New Orleans' pass defense in Week 9. Since Week 4, the Saints have conceded an average of 350 pass yards and three TDs per game. Even though Vick has been recklessly unreliable this season, he did not turn the ball over last week against a stingy Falcons defense so we may be seeing the beginning of a trend. New Orleans is allowing opposing quarterbacks to have a 110.6 QB rating so far this year. Point being, this game weighs very heavily in Vick's favor so revisit giving up on him for now.
Detroit's running game has been silenced for most of the season. No Lions back has scored a TD or eclipsed 100 yards since Week 3. Mikel Leshoure is still this team's primary back, but his numbers are discouraging. In his defense, since that Week 3 game, Detroit has faced Minnesota, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle. When Detroit voyages to Jacksonville, they will challenge a rushing defense ranked in the bottom-third in nearly every stat. Detroit may have overcome their struggles last week and if defenses must pay more attention to an now-materializing Titus Young, that will only create running lanes for Leshoure. Realistically, the Lions love to pass so even with a favorable matchup, Leshoure is little more than a flex consideration. This offense just is not conducive to dependably dominating RB performances.
Two recommendations from the Carolina Panthers? I know, I make the big calls here at Player Upgrades. Get with it. Look, the Panthers doubled-down with Jonathan Stewart and gave him 21 touches against Chicago. Yes, Chicago! That is nearly double his ordinary number of touches. Even though Washington's defensive plight are centered around a struggling secondary, a featured back in Carolina warrants more than the typical dismissals most of us have levied against Carolina's backfield. The real question you have to ask yourself is whether or not an upgraded Stewart is even good enough to crack your starting lineup because he has been wonderfully awful. If lacking the confidence to start him, you are not in the minority, but keep an eye on his snap count and touches because something may have changed for the better last week.
Has a Top 20 WR ever garnered so little love? Andre Roberts is playing like a solid WR2 in both PPR and standard leagues, yet he remains largely available in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. Arizona's regrettable running game guarantees plenty of passes and Roberts is reaping the rewards. (Who doesn't love unintentional alliteration?) If we disregard his one target in Week 2 (not a fair way to do analysis, but humor me), his targets per game average jumps from 7.9 (35th) to 8.9 (21st) -- above guys like Mike Wallace, Miles Austin, Eric Decker, Roddy White, and many other players intended to surprise you. Roberts may not win you a fantasy championship, but he is the glue that holds together teams if injuries and unfavorable matchups occur.