Wednesday - Feb 20, 2019

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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 9

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each of the NFL Week 9 game profiles below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Bye Week Teams: New England, L.A. Chargers, Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Colts Texans
Quarterback 5th 4th
Running Back 3rd 30th
Wide Receiver 5th 7th
Tight End 12th 6th
Defense/Special Teams 1st 6th
Vegas Line: Texans -7
Vegas Over/Under: 51.5
If DeShaun Watson* can slice and dice Seattle’s Legion of Boom as he did last Sunday, imagine what his upside versus the Colts’ defense that has given up the second-most passing yards to QBs this season could be. The only minor concern here is with the Texans being 13-point favorites, they may jump out to an early lead and let off the throttle. Lamar Miller handled 24 offensive touches last Sunday, which he turned into 73 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie D’Onta Foreman (who had been stealing backfield playing time in the weeks leading up to Houston’s bye) was nowhere to be found. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for 13 catches, 349 receiving yards, and three touchdowns against Seattle’s strong secondary last Sunday, and will look to have an encore performance against the Colts, who have given up the second-most receiving yardage to opposing wideouts this season. Fuller’s 13:7 catch-to-touchdown rate is clearly unsustainable, but his quarterback is playing lights out, and the matchup suggests a regression to the mean is not in store this week. Despite the defensive injuries sustained by the Houston, their D/ST is in a prime spot against a Colts team that has given up the most fantasy points per game to the position.
With six teams on bye, Jacoby Brissett makes sense as a QB streamer against a Houston defense that gave up 405 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to Russell Wilson last Sunday.  Jack Doyle has seemingly re-emerged as the apple in QB Brissett’s eyes, going for a career high 12-121-1 in Week 8 against the Bengals, and has quietly totaled 25 catches for 215 yards over the past three weeks. T.Y. Hilton has essentially been a gamble every week this season, posting at least 150 receiving yards in two games this season, while being held under 60 yards in each of the others. Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano publicly admitted he would like to see Hilton more involved in the offense, and Week 9 would be a good start going up against a Texans defense that most recently allowed the Seahawks receivers to combine for 19-322-2 against them.
Donte Moncrief posted a goose egg last Sunday against the Bengals, and has not been a viable fantasy play all season. While Houston’s pass defense has slipped in recent weeks, they are still stuffing the run, allowing just 3.4 yards-per-carry to RBs. The Frank Gore/Marlon Mack committee does not figure to have much room to get anything going on the ground. D’Onta Foreman had been averaging 10.6 offensive touches per game since Week 2, but was mysteriously absent from last Sunday’s box score. No injury for Foreman was reported, so once can only surmise he was benched. With DeShaun Watson choosing to relentlessly target his WRs, tight end Ryan Griffin finds himself with limited streaming appeal, even with six teams on bye.

*Update: Yesterday it was reported that DeShaun Watson tore is ACL in practice and his headed for season-ending injured reserve, which is a devastating blow to the Houston Texans, fantasy owners, and the NFL in general. Given the recent development, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins remain green light options, albeit ones with reduced upside. Miller in particular will see more stacked fronts with backup QB Tom Savage calling the shots. Will Fuller is downgraded to a yellow-light option, as his already unsustainable pace is sure to slow without Houston’s stud quarterback dialed into him, regardless of the favorable matchup. If you’re feeling frisky, feel free to stream the Colts D/ST against Tom Savage. As of this writing the over/under is still showing up as 51.5, which cannot possibly reflect that DeShaun Watson won’t be playing. My outlook for the Indianapolis offense doesn’t really change, although their pace may be a little different with Houston not being able to score at will.

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Bengals Jaguars
Quarterback 21st 32nd
Running Back 23rd 14th
Wide Receiver 27th 32nd
Tight End 21st 13th
Defense/Special Teams 8th 22nd
Vegas Line: Jaguars -6
Vegas Over/Under:
39
Fresh off off his bye week, Leonard Fournette (ankle) is practicing fully this week, and as scored at least once in every game he’s played this season. Fournette comes into this contest particularly hot over his last three games played, averaging 132.3 rushing yards per contest over that span. From a fantasy perspective (and perhaps in reality too), the Jaguars D/ST has been as good as it gets all season, and has a plus matchup against a Bengals’ team that has a -10 turnover differential.
Joe Mixon is averaging a paltry 3.0 YPC on the season, but remains the favorite for touches in the Bengals’ backfield. Tyler Kroft has three touchdowns over his past four contests, and figures to be active this week as the Jaguars’ pass defense is a little leaky across the middle. The Bengals D/ST are a decent option given they allow the second-fewest offensive yards per game, but the Jaguars insistence on playing ball control offense via running the football and limiting Blake Bortles‘ pass attempts limits the upside.
The Jaguars pass defense has been a death knell for opposing QBs and WRs, having shut down every passing attack they’ve faced. Andy Dalton has zero streaming value this week, while it’s conceivable A.J. Green has a tough time besting the 34 receiving yards per game he’s averaged the past two weeks. Allen Hurns did manage to cross the 100 receiving yard threshold for the first time this season against Indianapolis in Week 7, but the Bengals secondary is a different beast, allowing the second-fewest receiving yards per game to opposing wideouts. Marquise Lee is an unappealing option this week as well for the same aforementioned reasons. Preseason darling Dede Westbrook is expected to make his regular season debut, and while he brings a playmaking element to the table the other Jacksonville WRs don’t have, we just don’t know how the coaching staff plans to use him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Buccaneers Saints
Quarterback 7th 18th
Running Back 11th 12th
Wide Receiver 3rd 16th
Tight End 23rd 25th
Defense/Special Teams 19th 26th
Vegas Line: Saints -7
Vegas Over/Under:
 52
Mike Evans has scored and cleared 60 receiving yards in five of seven games this season, but is still looking to go over the century mark for the first time. Evans’ matchup against CB Marshon Lattimore and the Saints’ secondary is tougher than it has been in years past, but the lanky wideout continues to see heavy targets, with no fewer than 8 in any game this season. Drew Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time all season last Sunday against the Bears. Brees should have an easier time making his mark on the scoreboard against a Buccaneers pass defense giving up the third-most passing yards per game. Michael Thomas is another wideout looking for his first true breakout game of 2017. The odds are in Thomas’ favor of finding it, as no NFL team allows more receiving yards per game than Tampa Bay. Mark Ingram has found the end zone four times since the Adrian Peterson trade while eclipsing 95 scrimmage yards in all three games. By that same token, Ingram’s backfield mate Alvin Kamara  has at least 76 scrimmage yards since the start of Week 5, and could see a few extra carries if head coach Sean Payton holds Ingram’s two Week 8 fumbles against him.
Jameis Winston (shoulder) had a rough Week 8, throwing for just 210 yards and committing three turnovers, which led to speculation as to how healthy he really is. While Winston appears on track to play Week 9 based on his practice participation, his inconsistency combined with the Saints pass defense improvements make him a high-upside, high-risk option. Doug Martin has been solid, yet unspectacular since returning from his suspension in Week 4, averaging 61.8 yards per game in four contests. The Saints have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two straight contests. Cameron Brate has at least 60 receiving yards in five straight games, scoring in three of them. The matchup for Brate isn’t great, but he continues to be a red zone weapon for the Bucs.  Ted Ginn is averaging 91.7 receiving yards per game with one touchdown over his past three contests, and could be worth a flier as this contest has one of the highest over/unders of the week. DeSean Jackson has three weeks over over 70 receiving yards, and four of under 40. Look for the Bucs to dial up some deep shots to D-Jax this week, especially if the game script goes south in a hurry as projected. The Saints D/ST has accomplished an impressive turnaround from years past, and should be able to harass a turnover prone Jameis Winston as 7-point home favorites. Be wary of the high expected over/under though.
Willie Snead played just four offensive snaps last Sunday, and it’s unclear what exactly his role is going forward. After scoring twice in his first two contests this year, Coby Fleener has 6 catches for 63 yards in the five contests since. Brandon Coleman seems good for about one big play each week, but has just 13 catches total on the season. O.J. Howard predictably fell back down to Earth last Sunday, catching two passes for 16 yards on two targets, as he’s still clearly behind Cameron Brate on the tight end depth chart,

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Rams Giants
Quarterback 25th 6th
Running Back 2nd 17th
Wide Receiver 26th 18th
Tight End 27th 1st
Defense/Special Teams 30th 15th
Vegas Line: Rams -3.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 42
Prior to his bye week, Todd Gurley was averaging 131.4 total yards per game. The Giants give up 145.6 total yards per game to opposing backfields. Jared Goff can be used as a bye week streamer, as the once feared Giants secondary has allowed an average of 329.5 passing yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns per game over their past four to opposing QBs.  The Rams D/ST can be useful against a Giants offense generating the third-fewest points per game, however, the Giants’ recent conservative game plans have limited opposing D/STs to just one top-8 finish since Week 2.
This is mostly a gut call, but it seems reasonable to assume the Rams spent their bye week figuring out ways to get big offseason trade acquisition Sammy Watkins more involved in the offense. The Giants secondary had allowed 411 receiving yards and two touchdowns to opposing wideouts prior to their Week 8 bye, and will be without stud CB Janoris Jenkins against the Rams due to a team imposed suspension. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp should also be serviceable options in a bye-heavy week. Woods leads the Rams with 54.4 receiving yards per game, while Kupp has found the end zone three times, which is tied with Todd Gurley for most receiving scores on the team. As the last man standing in the Giants wide receiver corps, Sterling Shepard should remain a volume-play going forward, though the Rams have not been the most generous to opposing wideouts in terms of fantasy points allowed this season. As the the Giants’ most effective rusher (5.4 YPC  on the season), Orleans Darkwa should get the first crack against a Rams defense whom only San Francisco has allowed more fantasy points to opposing backfields than.  Evan Engram comes into this contest hot with 11-142-2 over his past two games. The Rams allow just the second-fewest receiving yards per game to tight ends though.
Wayne Gallman appears to be the lesser half of the Giants’ running back committee, and only has 14 carries in his past two games.  I really want to recommend Tyler Higbee as a tight end sleeper this week given how poorly the Giants have defended the against the position, but Higbee’s usage has been to inconsistent this season to trust even in this stellar matchup. Eli Manning faces a stingy pass defense and is averaging just 162.3 passing yards per game over his last three.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.