Curt Kestila
Good Call/Bad Call - Week 9

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The weeks with six teams on a bye, like this week and last week, not only make your lineup decisions tougher, they also drop fantasy team scores as well. The 12th-ranked quarterback, on average over the first seven weeks, had scored 19.9 points, but last week, with six teams on a bye, the 12th-ranked quarterback scored 17 points. Almost a full three points less. Similar things happened for the other positions as well. The 24th-ranked running back and wide receiver have averaged 12.6 and 14.4 points, respectively, over the first seven weeks, but last week they scored 11 and 13 points, respectively. The 12th- ranked tight end had averaged 11.1 points in the first seven weeks, but last week the 12th- ranked tight end dropped all the way down to seven points. All these declines add up for an average starting lineup that’s 13 points less than the average team was scoring during Week 1-7.

That’s great, but why does this matter? Well, I expect the same thing to happen again this week. It will probably be more dramatic with Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, the New York Giants and San Francisco all on a bye this week since they have more fantasy relevant players than Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego and Tennessee, who were all on a bye last week. It also means you should lower your expectations for your team this week. If you’re used to having your tight end getting double-digit points, this week getting eight or nine points out of your tight end will be satisfactory. It also means that if you’re looking at the waiver wire for a bye week filler, you don’t have to feel as bad if that quarterback you’re eyeing is projected for 15 points. That’s probably not going to hurt you as much as you think it is. Keep in mind this week while you’re thinking you’re going to lose, scores will be lower and pulling off a win won’t need as many points as the typical week. Now on to the calls for the week.

Quarterbacks

A good bye week filler at quarterback for you would be Terrelle Pryor. Despite that Pryor has yet to throw for more than 300 passing yards, or more than two touchdowns in any game, he’s getting you points on the ground with his legs. This week his matchup is an easy one with Philadelphia coming to Oakland. The Eagles have allowed an average of 21 fantasy points per game to the quarterbacks they’ve faced. They give up an average of 302 passing yards per game. Maybe this will be the week Pryor cracks the 300-yard mark in the air. Either way, he’s a good call for you to get into your starting lineup this week.

Alex Smith has been a fringe starter for most of the year. He ranks as the 12th-best quarterback right now. This week you’re going to want to get him into your starting lineup. Smith plays Buffalo, who has allowed a league-leading 20 passing touchdowns on the season while allowing an average of 288 passing yards per game. All this makes Buffalo the second-easiest defense for a quarterback to go against, and a good call for you to start.

A quarterback you’re going to want to leave on your bench again this week is Tom Brady. Brady’s problems with his wide receivers are well talked about, but this week he gets an even bigger problem to deal with, the Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers are the toughest defense for a quarterback to go against this year. They’ve allowed just five passing touchdowns on the season. The Steelers have allowed a grand total of 95 fantasy points to quarterbacks this year, and 15 of those points came on Terrelle Pryor’s 93-yard touchdown run last week. To say the Steelers have a stout fantasy defense against quarterbacks is an understatement. I wouldn’t start Brady even with this being a week with so many teams on a bye.

Running Backs

Pittsburgh’s run defense, on the other hand, is very fantasy friendly. That’s a good thing for Stevan Ridley. The Steelers give up an average of 121 rushing yards per game, and more than a touchdown a game to running backs. Ridley hasn’t been racking up the yards this year, but he has four touchdowns over the last three games, and looks to get another one this week, as long as Brandon Bolden doesn’t vulture it away. Start Ridley with confidence while you can, since he’ll be sharing the load with Shane Vereen, who will be back in Week 11.

DeMarco Murray picked a good week to come back from his sprained MCL. Playing Minnesota this week will help ease him back into the swing of things. Minnesota has given up eight touchdowns to running backs over their past four games. Playing in Dallas will also be good for Murray since he averages 5.1 yards per carry at home and just 3.7 yards per carry on the road this year. Starting Murray would definitely be a good call this week.

The list of good running backs who have gone against San Diego and failed to get more than 70 rushing yards is long this year. Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Trent Richardson, and Maurice Jones-Drew have all been unsuccessful. All this makes the Chargers the toughest defense for running backs to go against. That means that Alfred Morris is going to have a rough time this week, and so will you if you start him.

Wide Receivers

Six different wide receivers have had multiple touchdown catches when playing Philadelphia this year. Four others have 100-plus yard games as well. Getting a receiver that plays Philadelphia is a gift from the fantasy gods. This week if you’ve got Denarius Moore, you get that gift. Moore has been doing well with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback this year and currently ranks as the 26th-best receiver. He should move up the ranks with a good week this week.

Dwayne Bowe should be the receiver that benefits the most with an easy game against Buffalo. The Bills’ weak passing defense has led to some big fantasy games for wide receivers. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Santonio Holmes, Torrey Smith, A.J. Green, Brandon Gibson and Kenny Stills have all had games where they scored 20 or more fantasy points. This week Bowe should be able to put up some good numbers for you, and that makes him a good call.

Vincent Jackson is a boom-or-bust type of wide receiver. He either has a big game or he flops. There is no consistency with him. This week he’s going to flop. His matchup at Seattle is going to be the toughest one of the year so far. Only one receiver has more than 70 receiving yards when playing in Seattle. Jackson appears to be Mike Glennon’s favorite target, but with the tough Seahawks defense the odds just aren’t in Jackson’s favor this week. He’s a bad call.

Tight Ends

A tight end has caught a touchdown in six of the seven games against Washington this year. That is a good sign for Antonio Gates this week. Gates has been slowing down lately, but this week things should pick back up again. He’s the favorite target of Philip Rivers and he’s a good call this week.

Quarterbacks on new teams usually dump the ball off to whoever is the closest receiver when they get pressured in the pocket. If that happens to Josh Freeman, look for Kyle Rudolph to have a good week. Dallas ranks 28th in points given up to tight ends, so the combo of Freeman dumping it off and the Cowboys allowing tight ends to rack up points makes Rudolph a good call this week.

Tight ends average just six points when they play Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the second most difficult team for tight ends to play. That’s not good for Rob Gronkowski who is still trying to get reacclimated to the NFL game. This is not a week you want to be testing to see if Gronkowski is ready to return to your starting lineup.

Good luck this week and, as always, may your starters stay healthy and I hope you make all the right calls.