Dwight Howard

Fantasy Football Week 9: Imposters at the Helm

Three quarterbacks with the same surname (Allen) started in the NFL this week. That has happened before, but Week 9 of the 2019 NFL season became the first week ever where three quarterbacks with the same last name won an NFL game.

Josh Allen pulled the Bills to within a game of the Patriots; Kyle Allen kept the Panthers’ in the playoff conversation, and Brandon Allen led the Broncos to their third victory in his first NFL start.

There was no preseason Vegas side bet on three quarterbacks with the same last name winning an NFL game in the same week. That is because two of the Allens weren’t supposed to start any games.

There is a lot of that going around. 14 of the starting quarterbacks from Week 1 have either been replaced or missed significant time in the first half of the season. Injuries played a role, but six were coach’s decisions.

While fans in Cleveland and Chicago push their coaches to pull the trigger in Week 10, Indianapolis will probably become the 15th team to start a second passer after Jacobi Brissett sprained a knee against Pittsburgh.

That brings us to our topic of the week. How much does losing a starting quarterback matter to NFL fantasy football managers?

Your first reaction might be, “Duh! Of course, it matters a lot.” But we looked at the numbers and were as surprised as you might soon be by what we found.

Three teams, the Saints, Eagles, and Jets, have their Week 1 starter back under center. After their ugly loss to the Dolphins, it is apparent New York’s quarterback is not affecting their situation much at all.  

Philadelphia’s running back by committee, tight end by committee, and wide receiver injuries made it impossible to trend scoring.

So, we’ll look deeper at the Drew Brees effect on the Saints and glance at other stars who might or might not have been affected this season by imposters at the helm of their offenses.

The overview: Real Life NFL

Philadelphia showed the league how important a backup quarterback can be when their $5 million relief passer, Nick Foles, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl Championship.

Indianapolis thought they had a bonafide starter behind Andrew Luck. The good news is that they were correct. The bad news was Luck’s unexpected retirement in the preseason.

Jacobi Brissett took the starting role and the veteran Brian Hoyer was signed to back him up. If Adam Vinatieri’s season didn’t continue to spiral out of control, Hoyer would have a victory in relief already.

But wins and losses don’t matter much in fantasy football. Matt Schaub lost last week, but he threw for 460 yards covering Matt Ryan and topped 20 fantasy football points.  

Another replacement quarterback, Daniel Jones of the Giants, was the QB-1 with over 28 points and lost his game against Detroit.

But we only care that they each finished as top ten passers, well ahead of Tom Brady and Russell Wilson- who won their games.

What mattered in New Orleans?

New Orleans had former Minnesota starter (and presumed heir to Drew Brees’ throne) Teddy Bridgewater ready to go when Brees dislocated his thumb in Week 2.

All Bridgewater did was go 5-0 in Brees’ absence. Brees threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in his Week 8 return, quickly reclaiming his position. Brees boasts over 20 points in each of his pair of 2019 starts.

Brees’ fantasy football managers weren’t ready to flip Bridgewater into their starting lineups and hope for the best. No one expected him to match Brees’ output.

That is usually the case when a true fantasy star gets knocked out of the game. When Luck retired, Brissett was trusted to manage games and keep the Colts in the playoff picture.

But fantasy football discussion revolved around the negative impact on TY Hilton’s top-ten wide receiver prospects and the possible increase in touches for Marlon Mack.

It was the same in New York where the debate raged about whether Saquon Barkley and Le’Veon Bell would be boxed in without their starting passers. Kansas City wondered how Andy Reid would respond- and who would benefit – from Patrick Mahomes’ injury.

But virtually nobody considered whether the relief quarterback was a fantasy football starter or not.

In New Orleans, Michel Thomas’ stock initially fell. Alvin Kamara’s rose. So did Latavius Murray on the notion that the running game would rise in importance and the two-headed attack would prevail.

Even tight end Jared Cook was seen as a viable outlet for Bridgewater, despite doing nothing in the first two weeks.  

For everyone who wanted to roll the dice on Thomas, Kamara, and the others, someone else argued to bench all Saints in case defenses stack the box against the run and Bridgewater couldn’t pass well enough.

Why you want a trusted quarterback on the bench

Even though Bridgewater’s fantasy points-per-game didn’t match Brees’, he managed the Saints’ attack well.

Michael Thomas is averaging 23 PPR points per game this season, four points more than in last season’s WR-6 finish. Even if you take away his 41-point monster game against the Buccaneers, Thomas is barely a point off last season’s pace under Bridgewater.

To be fair, that is 2 points less than in the pair of games Brees started. But it is certainly no reason for a fantasy football owner to move on from the perennial WR-1 candidate.

Tight end Jared Cook got off to a slow start on the season, but Bridgewater fed 27 PPR points to Cook over Weeks 5-6 before Cook got injured. Backup tight end Josh Hill scored 13.3 points in Bridgewater’s last start.

Arguably, that is better than the tight end production realized under Brees.

Ted Ginn Jr’s name might pop back into late-season waiver discussions as it does every season. Ginn scored 17.10 points in Brees’ first start. But the 6.2 he managed in Week 8 is closer to what we saw from Ginn each week under Bridgewater.

Ready to run amok?

After Week 1, it looked like the Saints were ready to use the same running game split as 2018. Kamara racked up 23.90 PPR points while Murray added a Mark Ingram-like 12.7. It was almost identical to the 22/12 points-per-game Kamara and Ingram averaged in their last season together.

But with Brees on the sideline, Kamara was made the bell cow. That started off okay as Kamara racked up 37 PPR points in Week 3. But over the next three weeks, a banged-up Kamara barely averaged 14 points.

As Kamara limped around, Murray’s role expanded slowly until he scored 10.9 points in Week 6.

Kamara sat out Weeks 8 and 9 as Sean Payton’s preseason concern about working his star too hard proved accurate. Murray’s performance in those two games drove home the error Payton made ending the Kamara/Murray time share.

After scoring 32 and 36.7 PPR points with Kamara on the bench, it would seem Murray has forced the Saints to put him back into the 1-A role alongside a returning Kamara.

What did we learn?

If there is a lesson in this, it is to avoid over-analyzing when a quarterback goes down. If you have viable options for an affected starter, maybe you can flip the bench player for a week to see what happens.

But overall, a stud is a stud. There is generally a bigger effect on the secondary fantasy football players than the top performers.

Remember, everything is relative. If a stud performer loses a few points per game, we are still not likely to find a worthy replacement.

The quarterback himself is the biggest risk. But for every cautious game manager, there is a Matt Schaub. Gardner Minshew happens on occasion, too.

As far as any conjecture that backup passers feel more comfortable throwing to backup receivers, we should note that coaches are not likely to move backups into starting roles based on that.

Daniel Jones has a connection with rookie Darius Slay, but Slay is still the WR-4 or 5 on the Giants. DJ Chark became Gardner Minshew’s Dede Westbrook, but Chark was already a starter (not to mention a sleeper on this writer’s preseason draft board).

It is more likely a stud receiver will see a higher percentage of targets than a secondary receiver will emerge as a favorite.

There are still risks of stacked boxes affecting rushers behind a new quarterback. But coaches expect that and can generally adapt quickly.

Also, a really good running back will fight through or around the stacked defense eventually.

The bottom line is the mantra of fantasy football veterans holds true: Always play your studs. Think twice about your WR-2 and RB-2 types. Don’t rely on the replacement quarterback, even in a Kansas City situation.

Drew Brees’ return has fans and fantasy owners breathing easier, but the data says there was little reason to worry about the Saints’ fantasy football output without him.

You can argue the offense became less predictable with Bridgewater, but can you say the move to Kamara and the usage of the tight end would not have been an issue even if Brees was behind center all season?

Probably not.

Further evidence from Week 9  

In Week 9, your RB-1 played with a backup quarterback. Christian McCaffrey rattled off 37.6 PPR points for Kyle Allen.

Before you go thinking McCaffrey was a one-man-show, consider that Allen also made DJ Moore (17.1) and Curtis Samuel (16.4) the WR-16 and 18 respectively.

The rest of the top ten running backs offered quite a few surprises. Kenyan Drake’s escape from Miami paid immediate dividends for his truthers. Drake’s Thursday night Cardinals debut was the RB-2 performance at 28.2 points.

Melvin Gordon (25.90) was heard to say, “I think I’m back” after his RB-3 performance. Derrick Henry dismissed concerns about the Panthers’ defense and took the RB-4 position, just ahead of the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs.

Buffalo unofficially announced the beginning of the Devin Singletary era, feeding their rookie 24 touches. His 23 points put him ahead of Chicago’s David Montgomery.

Damien Harris made a surprise return to the top ten, thanks to a long touchdown run. Le’Veon Bell had another “awful” performance, finishing with 121 total yards and the RB-9.

If you jumped on the Jaylen Samuels wagon expecting him to get all the carries in Pittsburgh, his 10 yards rushing were a disappointment. But his 13 catches helped him round out the top ten in PPR.

It’s still a passing game

When four of the top ten overall scores come from the same game, you can usually assume it was a good one.

The Seahawks and Buccaneers played a good one. Not only did the top three wide receivers come out of this fantasy football treasure chest, so did the top passer and a handful of other starter-level scorers.

Russell Wilson served up five touchdowns in the overtime thriller, along with 399 total yards. His QB-1 finish put Wilson (39.22) well ahead of QB-2 Jimmy Garoppolo (28.88) and QB-3 Lamar Jackson (28.62).

Tyler Lockett (40.22) was on the receiving end of two of Wilson’s touchdowns, on his way to the only 40-point performance of the week. Teammate DK Metcalf was the WR-3 with 27 PPR points.

Just like the Buccaneers team, Mike Evans fell short of the top prize but still gave us 36.00 PPR points in the thriller with the Seahawks.

Seattle’s Jacob Hollister (19.70) caught the winning touchdown in overtime, but he fell short of Zach Ertz (25.30), Noah Fant (20.50), and George Kittle (19.90) for the TE-1 slot.

Their late flurry of points against the Jaguars gave Houston (19.00) the DST-1 title. New England (4) failed to give a top-10 performance for the first time this year.

Injuries and returns

Jacobi Brissett was one of only a handful of new injury concerns. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL. Although the Colts have not ruled him out for Week 10, they will prepare Brian Hoyer during the week.

Miami’s rookie receiver Preston Williams was slated for an MRI Monday. The Dolphins didn’t think his knee was serious, but an MRI ended Williams’ season when it revealed a torn ACL.

Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones went down after a direct hit on his knee. It is not thought to be serious, but he is questionable Week 10.

DeSean Jackson’s return was short-lived. He “didn’t feel right” after catching a short pass and was removed from the game. His season is probably over after undergoing surgery on Monday for a torn muscle.

Adam Thielen’s hamstring did not hold up. His status for next week is in the air.

Week 10 could get a little hairy for some owners with six teams on bye, including the Eagles, Texans, Patriots, Jaguars, Redskins, and Broncos.

We could see the return of Josh Gordon in his Seahawks debut. Rumor is that AJ Green will also hit the field with rookie quarterback Ryan Finley.

Kareem Hunt is eligible to return to the field for Cleveland Sunday. Coach Freddie Kitchens is smug about what that means. His only quote is, “We’ll have a plan for him. It’s always good to have guys like that.”

Alvin Kamara, TJ Hockensen, and David Johnson should return from injury in Week 10. James Connor is not as certain.

Waiver thoughts

Anyone who needed the waiver wire recently knows how thin things have been. But there are a couple of possibilities.

Ryan Tannehill is still widely available, even after delivering his third straight 19-point performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick was your QB-5 last week, although Indianapolis will present more of a challenge than the Jets.

If Brian Hoyer plays, he gets the Dolphins in Week 10.

If you are in one of the 35 percent of leagues where Devin Singletary and Kenyan Drake are still available, grab them. But be cautious about Drake, as I’ll explain later.

Ronald Jones took the vast majority of early snaps in Tampa Bay. If the Buccaneers finally commit to him as the RB-1, he could be a worthy emergency starter.

Zach Pascal should see some fantasy football love. Pascal is the clear number one in TY Hilton’s absence. Ryan Fitzpatrick makes Davante Parker worth a risk, too.

Ryan Griffin, Darren Fells, and Noah Fant are top tight ends. Streaming the Giants (vs Jets) or Colts (vs Dolphins) DSTs is a good plan, too.

Problem Children

Davante Adams returned to action this week. There are a lot of fantasy football owners concerned about his 41 yard-outing. Don’t be.

Adams got 11 targets from Aaron Rodgers, who said after the game the Packers didn’t get to try some things they had lined up for the returning WR-1.

Adams will be a top-level starter with 11 targets most weeks. The Chargers simply delivered a whuppin’ on all the Packers.

Meanwhile, did Kenyan Drake become the RB-1 in Arizona? The Cardinals have seen this before, although with a different coaching staff in place.

Remember when Adrian Peterson came over from the Saints? Peterson went off in his debut, threw up a dud the next week.

David Johnson and Kenyan Drake appear well- suited for this offense. It might be Drake’s next year. But now, we probably have a 1 and 1-A. There could even be a 1-B when Chase Edmonds comes back.

That equals a mess. Play them if you don’t have a good backup plan. But Arizona could soon have a committee to end all committees.

Have a great week!

Pat Opperman NFL Fantasy Analyst, click here for more.

Archive @ Pat Opperman


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