People keep asking me what is wrong with Philip Rivers this season.  And, quite honestly, it’s a very hard question to answer.  I’m not going to look at this from a real-world perspective, as it’s pretty clear from that perspective that he misses having Darren Sproles as his safety valve, and Antonio Gates’ injuries have slowed Rivers production significantly.  However, from a fantasy standpoint, he’s actually been more of a mixed bag than a true bust when you look at it closely.  On the negative side, Rivers is clearly taking more risks this season, as he already has 11 interceptions through 7 games.  That will put him on pace to throw 25 interceptions, which would be a career worst for him by a whopping 10 interceptions.  However, he has managed to throw for 2,084 yards this season.  If he keeps up that pace he’ll throw for over 4,000 yards for the 4th straight season, and even set a career high in yards with 4,763.  Unfortunately, despite these yards, touchdowns haven’t followed.  Rivers only has 7 so far this season.  So what do fantasy players make of these numbers?  I have to believe that Rivers will start to get closer to his averages on all of these stats as the season goes on.  It will surely be a disappointing year when it comes to yearly totals, but if he tones down his risk taking ways he should find a way to be a strong contributor going forward this fantasy season.  If he doesn’t, expect more mediocre numbers with tons of yards and interceptions.  Now let’s move on to week 9.

Quarterback

BEST: Philip Rivers, SD

-Wow, I just talked about the guy, and we’re right back to him.  I honestly didn’t intend to do this, but I received too many questions about him, and his matchup is too good this week not to give him double the coverage.  The Packers are giving up 288.9 yards per game through the air this season, and may be just what Rivers needs to get back on track.  However, I was slightly nervous about making this call.  As I previously mentioned, Rivers has been taking way too many risks this season, and Green Bay is tied for second in the NFL with 13 interceptions already this year.  If Rivers decides to be careless then this game could get very ugly from a fantasy perspective.  I think he’ll mostly take what the Packers give him this week and will end up with 325 yards, 3 touchdowns, and only 1 interception in what should turn into a high scoring affair.

WORST:  Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF

-Fitzpatrick has been a very pleasant surprise this season for fantasy owners.  He’s currently in the top 10 of most scoring formats, while going undrafted in many leagues.  However, this week probably won’t be a huge one for him.  The Jets have been extremely good against the pass this season, giving up only 196.7 yards per game, and only 4 passing touchdowns all season.  To boot, they’ve snagged 11 interceptions, which ties them for 4th in the league.  Fitzpatrick should probably end up around the averages of the Jets this week, so I expect him to throw for 190 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception.  Not the kind of numbers you want from your starting QB.  You probably don’t have a better option as your backup, but if you do, he might be worth a look this week.

Running Back

BEST:    Matt Forte, CHI

-Forte has been one of the best backs in the NFL this season, and gets a nice soft matchup against an Eagles rush defense that is giving up 118.3 yards per game this season.  Forte should be able to contribute through both the air and on the ground this week as the Bears will likely use him as their primary weapon throughout the game.  I think he’ll touch the ball at least 30 times in both the rush and pass game, and as of right now he averages 6.7 yards per touch including both receiving yards and rushing yards.  So if you extrapolate that out it seems logical that against weak competition Forte could easily end up with over 200 yards of total offense and at least 1 score.  Those are great numbers, and he had better be in your starting lineup this week.

WORST:  Chris Johnson, TEN

-Hoping for Johnson to get back on track this week?  I wouldn’t count on it.  The Bengals have the second best rush defense in the league, giving up only an average of 85 yards per game, and last week really didn’t look good for Johnson.  He split carries evenly with Javon Ringer, and Ringer looked significantly more comfortable in the backfield than the man ahead of him on the depth chart.  I mean this honestly, you shouldn’t start Johnson this week.  It may seem like blasphemy, but this is clearly not Johnson’s year, and it’s time to stash him on your bench if you even have a reasonably workable second option.

Wide Receiver

BEST:    Dwayne Bowe, KC

-After a slightly slow start to the season I think Bowe will continue his strong string of games this week.  He’s caught at least 4 balls in each of his last 6 games, and has averaged just over 90 yards per game over that span.  He’s facing a Dolphins defense this week that is giving up around 270 yards per game this season, and is also allowing 2 touchdowns per game on average.  This season Bowe has accounted for 41% of all of the receiving yardage gained by the Chiefs, and if you assume that both Bowe and Cassel are simply average against the Dolphins you would come up with 108 yards receiving and 1 touchdown for Bowe against the Dolphins.  I think those seem like pretty fair numbers to expect from Bowe this week.

WORST:  Eric Decker, DEN

-Did you see Tim Tebow last week?  Decker actually managed decent numbers with Tebow throwing him the ball, but if Tebow keeps playing like he did against the Lions I really don’t see Decker’s numbers continuing to climb.    He may still be able to snag a big game or two like he did early in the season, but I really expect his numbers to take a significant dip in the second half of the season.  If he was on my roster, I’d seriously think about trying to trade him while his name is still hot.

Tight End

BEST:    Jason Witten, DAL

-With how inconsistent the Cowboy have been this season,Witten has been shockingly stable.  He’s scored in the double digits 4 times this season, and was only one half of a point away from double digits in week 7.  This week he faces off against a Seahawks defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league against the pass.  I think the Cowboys will come out fired up this week after the thrashing the took at the hands of their division-rivals from Philadelphia last week.  That should bode well for Witten who I predict will end up with around 80 yards receiving and at least 1 score.  However, if the Cowboys come out flat and defeated, it could be a very long game for Witten.  Don’t panic, but that’s just something to keep an eye on this week.

WORST:  Scott Chandler, BUF

-Yes, he caught two touchdown passes last week, which made him look like he was some type of fantasy beast with the point total he put up.  Don’t be fooled, those two touchdown catches….they were his only catches of the game.  For a guy who has caught more than 2 passes in a game only ONCE this entire season, he sure is getting way too much love from fantasy players and experts alike.  Sure, he has 6 touchdowns this year, primarily because Ryan Fitzpatrick tends to look for him in the red zone.  That makes him a solid bye week fill-in, but not a true starter like many are hyping him to be.  Keep him stashed on your bench this week unless you literally have no other option.  I really don’t like what I’m seeing from him right now.

Defense

BEST:     San Francisco 49ers

The Niners have quietly put together one of the best fantasy defenses in the league this year, ranking in the top 5 defenses in nearly all scoring formats.  This week they face a Washington team that has questions at literally every position on offense.  John Beck doesn’t appear to be the answer in Washington and their running back situation is a mess after losing Tim Hightower.  I think the 49ers make life very difficult for Redskins fans this week on their way to a monster fantasy day.  Look for them to give up fewer than 21 points, snag between 2 and 4 turnovers, and sack the quarterback 3 times.

WORST:  New York Giants

The Giants haven’t been bad this year on D, but they haven’t really been good either.  This week they’re in big trouble, as they travel to meet up with the juggernaut known as the Patriots’ offense.  They do have a chance of slowing the Pats if their tough front 4 can put steady pressure on Tom Brady.  That’s really the only way to stop the Patriots, if you can force Brady to release the ball sooner than he would like he isn’t the same quarterback as when he can keep his jersey clean.  Unfortunately, I just don’t see the Giants getting to Brady enough to make them worth playing this week.  I think they’ll give up over 30 points, get no turnovers, and 3 sacks.  If you have a better option, go with that instead of the Giants.

SLEEPER OF THE WEEK

Javon Ringer, RB, Tennessee Titans

I’m not saying that Javon will be the starter, or that he’ll even get the share of the carries that he got last week.  All I’m saying is that he’s worth owning at this point.  Right now he’s only owned in 28% of Yahoo leagues, and if these problems with Chris Johnson persist you may be able to swing a trade of Ringer to a Johnson owner if they begin to panic.  And lets be honest, if your first round pick was performing as poorly as Chris Johnson, you’d be panicking too.  Ringer may not see the ball much more this season, but right now his psychological value is worth a heck of a lot more than his on-field value.  In the mind of Chris Johnson owners he represents a threat to their perceived work-horse, and that makes him very very valuable.  Pick him up as a flier in your league, and see what happens over the next few weeks.  You never know, he could end up some valuable trade bait for you.

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