Every week in the NFL has storylines that take twists and turns. Who predicted that Doug Martin would have a breakout game against a stout Minnesota D? Pittsburgh’s defense is notoriously solid, but hopefully you weren’t relying on RG3 to win your week as he delivered his worst performance of the season. The most successful fantasy owners know that in reality, there is some degree of order behind all the chaos and unpredictability. Looking at the information that matters most can reveal insights into who will get the job done and who will fizzle out each week.
We have seen it time and time again; players step up to perform in big games. In the NFL, games between division rivals carry more weight, and there is a special air around these matchups. Even a fantasy slouch like Mark Sanchez is almost guaranteed to play a solid game when up against his archrival New England Patriots.
It Happened in Week 8: Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree had a big night on Monday vs. Arizona. The Cardinals, especially the defense, may be overrated, but the game was still for first place in the division. Smith and his most targeted receiver both stepped up their game for some of their best fantasy performances of the season. Both have shown they can be counted on in the clutch, so start them going forward in games with implications.
It Will Happen in Week 9: There aren’t a ton of division games on the slate in Week 9, but look for Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, and the rest of the Chargers’ offense to take care of business and have a drastically better week against their lowly division foe Kansas City.
Individual Player Trends
It’s risky to put too much stock into streaks, but recognizing a player filling a consistent role in an offense is a good way to ensure a solid fantasy performance.
It Happened in Week 8: After 4 straight weeks with a reception of 50+ yards, Chris Givens made it 5 in a row and scored a touchdown on the play. Owners who picked up the St. Louis wide out to fill a hole left by injuries or byes were rewarded for recognizing this obvious trend. Sam Bradford is bound to continue looking for Givens downfield, often to the endzone, plays that carry big upside, even if he only reels in one per game.
It Will Happen in Week 9: Josh Freeman has been consistently outperforming fantasy expectations, and as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to try and prove that they, like their quarterback, are underrated, he may deserve a starting roster spot in many situations. After throwing 16 TDs against 22 INTs last year, he has turned it around and been highly consistent, already delivering 14 TDs vs. just 5 picks. A matchup vs. a mediocre Oakland defense would suggest the trend continues.
It Happened in Week 8: Both Brandon Weeden and Philip Rivers struggled mightily to throw the football in heavy rains in Cleveland. A 7-6 final score isn’t what any fantasy owner is looking for.
It Will Happen in Week 9: The Packers host the Cardinals at Lambeau Field on Sunday, and as the season turns and it starts to get colder up North, the Pack will flourish more and more, as they do every year on the Frozen Tundra. Receivers like Jordy Nelson and the emerging Randall Cobb used to handling the ball in the cold will have decided advantages vs. opposing defenses.
One more tip from the pros: Follow the latest projections on www.scoutpro.com to see what the insiders already know about this week’s games!