NFL Fantasy: The 5 most important things we learned in week 9

What the heck just happened?


Week 9 just felt entirely unpredictable because of just how weird it was, but that’s good. There’s a lot of new information to consider –  teams we thought were juggernauts looked stoppable, teams we thought were down and out thrived, and we even saw some unexpected breakouts.

And that gives us all an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition in our fantasy leagues.

Remember: we are only halfway through the NFL season. Even though it feels like we have undeniable proof behind our beliefs, that half of a season is still only eight or nine games in. Some things aren’t always exactly what they seem in the NFL, and others can change in the blink of an eye. It’s vital to stay abreast of the most recent trends and developments if you want to take down your league mates.

There was a ton to take away from Week 9, but here are 5 of the most important things we learned.

1. The Patriots Just Got Shook

Lamar Jackson just absolutely dominated the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, posterising their historical defense for 30 offensive points (defensive back Marlon Humphrey also scored on a fumble return, resulting in the final 37-20 score).

Jackson – and some exciting fourth-down play calls – routinely extended drives on Sunday night, resulting in back-to-back eight- and nine-minute drives that ended in scores. The young quarterback just kept finding the right receiver – he targeted 10 different players over the course of the game, with none receiving more than 5 targets – and when he couldn’t, he found or created lanes to get the job done on the ground.

His final stat line of 163 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 62 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores doesn’t quite capture how dominant he was, but his 28.62 fantasy points certainly did.

More than 60% of Jackson’s passes and over 60% of his rushes added positive value to his team’s expected points total. Both of his marks were the highest Success Rates the Pats defense had allowed to passers and rushers (with over five rush attempts), respectively, all season. It was truly an incredible performance.

Jackson shook the Pats’ defense, but it’s important to note that what Jackson did isn’t necessarily reproducible by other teams.

Jackson is a one of a kind quarterback.

The Patriots still have a slew of elite defensive backs and one of the most versatile groups of pass rushers in the league. They might not be quite as elite as we thought they were, but don’t suddenly start expecting middling offenses to fare well against them.

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2. The Jets Are Actually Just Bad

Speaking of the Patriots’ defense, I think they might have actually broken New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. Since facing and face-planting against the Pats, Darnold has thrown four interceptions to three touchdowns and taken 11 sacks while playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars and… the Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins just won a game, despite their front office’s best efforts to make that impossible. Darnold and the Jets couldn’t beat a tanking Dolphins team. Let that sink in.

There were high hopes when Darnold returned from mono and bested the Dallas Cowboys, but either that was a total fluke, or the Patriots defense really did have him seeing ghosts.

The team’s performance on Sunday was truly abysmal. Darnold mustered up an awful 45.24% Passing Success Rate – only Mason Rudolph and Case Keenum fared worse against the ‘Phins – while the three sacks he took were the most any team has coughed up to the Dolphins’ non-existent pass rush. It was overall a deeply underwhelming and disappointing performance.

But the most concerning piece of all of this is that the Jets could still have easily won that game. The Jets and Darnold have a handful of soft match-ups coming, but it’s clear now after losing to the Dolphins – the very softest match-up – that you really can’t trust any of them to perform for you in fantasy football this year.

The Jets are just a really bad football team.

3. The Browns Lost to Brandon Allen

If you read that header and thought, “Who is Brandon Allen?” I promise you that you aren’t alone.

With Joe Flacco on injured reserve with a neck injury and second-round draft pick Drew Lock not quite healthy yet, the Denver Broncos were forced to start Allen against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9.

And they won.

It was Allen’s first time attempting a pass in the NFL after the Jags drafted him in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft – and the Browns couldn’t stop him. That’s a pretty major red flag.

The Browns’ offense was disappointing, but we’ve come to expect that with the way they’ve played this season. The most surprising part of this game was that they couldn’t stop anything the Broncos were doing on offense.

Phillip Lindsay averaged over 10 yards per carry – he averaged a casual first down each time he rushed the ball. Allen completed 12 of his 20 pass attempts and threw 2 touchdowns. Noah Fant – a tight end – broke off a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown, blowing by the entire Browns secondary on his way there.

The Browns are a group of extremely talented football players on both sides of the ball, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with this team. This iteration of the Browns is not as bad as teams they’ve fielded in previous seasons, but it’s in contention as the most disappointing one.

This Browns team is a match-up to be targeted – not feared – for fantasy purposes.

4. Devin Singletary Is a Baller

Devin Singletary’s rookie season has had a few stops and starts to kick things off, but one this is becoming clear – he’s a baller.

Singletary was an electric back in college, notching 66 rushing touchdowns in three years at Florida Atlantic. So what does he do when he enters the NFL? He establishes himself as pass-catcher while playing behind the eternal Frank Gore, notching five receptions in his very first game, while posting elite efficiency numbers on the ground. He suffered a hamstring injury early on and has been eased back into the rotation over the past three weeks, but in Week 9, Singletary convincingly surpassed Gore on the depth chart.

He dominated the workload in a win over Washington, toting the rock 20 times for 95 yards and a score while catching three of his four targets for 45 yards. His 23 touches far outpaced Gore’s 11 – and Gore only managed 15 yards on those 11 touches. Singletary played on 66% of the teams offensive snaps, whereas Gore was in just 34% of the time.

It’s unclear whether or not the Buffalo Bills’ opponent dictated this shift in running back workloads, but it is certainly clear that Singletary deserves a bell cow work load like the one he had in college. Singletary is averaging an absurd 6.7 yards per carry in 2019 and adds an element to the passing game that Frank Gore hasn’t provided since maybe 2010.

Singletary is only owned in 72% of Yahoo! leagues at time of writing.

If he’s out there on your waiver wire, make sure you snag the young breakout running back before it’s too late.

5. The Ole Miss Receivers are Budding Stars

It’s kind of crazy that D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown played on the same team in college – both represented the Mississippi Rebels between 2016-2018.  NFL teams valued both of them as second-round talents – the Tennessee Titans selected Brown with the 51st-overall pick, while the Seattle Seahawks famously made Metcalfde Metcalf the final pick of the second round. And now, both receivers are making their mark on the NFL.

Metcalf (525) and Brown (429) are first and third, respectively, among all rookie receivers in receiving yards. Metcalf’s five touchdowns pace the class, while Brown’s three are not far behind. They aren’t just dominating their rookie classmates – they are both top-36 in the league in total receiving yards at the wide receiver position.

Both receivers put on shows in Week 9 – though Metcalf’s performance easily took the cake. MVP-favorite Russell Wilson connected with Metcalf on 6 of his 9 targets for 123 yards, a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion. Brown didn’t quite hit the ground running like his former teammate, who basically earned a starting receiver role in the preseason. Brown’s ascension has been slower, but not due to his own play – he popped off for 100 yards in his Week 1 debut, but the Titans staff has decided to slowly work him into their receiver rotation instead of treating him like the stud he is. The Titans have been a frustrating team to follow for the past few years, and their decision not to feature Brown is certainly a head-scratcher.

In Week 9, he caught 4 of 7 targets from Ryan Tannehill and converted them into 81 yards. He’s averaging almost two full yards per target more than the other receivers on the team, and despite his limited opportunity all around, he has still found ways to flash his impressive skill set.

Both of these young studs have been playing out of their minds in their rookie seasons. We haven’t seen a pair of receivers come out of the same school the same year and play like this since Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry back in 2014.

Metcalf and Brown are superstars in the making. While most rookie receivers take some time to develop before becoming fantasy-relevant, these two are bucking that trend. With a handful of favorable match-ups coming up in the next few weeks for both of them, you should feel comfortable starting either receiver in your flex.

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What do you think?