I feel bad for anyone who did what I did in one of my fantasy leagues: sit Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben had arguably the best game of his career, completing 40 of his 49 passing attempts for 522 yards and six touchdowns.
The only way this situation could have been worse for you is if you played against Big Ben and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who finally broke out for nine receptions, 149 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 51-23 dismantling of the Chicago Bears.
It’s midseason and your league’s standings are becoming more clear in all likelihood. Whether you are at the top or bottom of the standings, here is our advice in the Week 9 Edition of MTSU Sidelines: Start ‘Ems and Sit ‘Ems.
Start ‘Em of the Week: Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Tom Brady may not have been the top quarterback of Week eight, but he was pretty close.
He completed 30 of his 35 attempts for 354 yards and five touchdowns over the Chicago Bears. For those keeping track, that’s 144 passing attempts, 14 touchdowns and 1,268 yards over four weeks without any interceptions.
Brady and the offensive unit heard the criticism following the Patriots’ embarrassing 41-14 Week four loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night football and have since silenced those critics.
Brady is aware of all the accolades for his rival and Week nine opponent, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who recently surpassed Brett Favre’s career passing touchdowns record.
Not only is Brady likely inspired to beat Manning and the Broncos, but he surely wants to take Peyton Manning out of the Week nine headlines and assert himself as the top quarterback of the week, even against a superb Denver defense. This may be a big day for Brady.
Start ‘Ems: Colin Kaepernick (SF), Eli Manning (NYG), Ryan Fitzpatrick (HOU)
Sit ‘Em of the Week: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill has played well over the past few weeks, even garnering some fantasy starter consideration over the past three weeks with his five passing touchdowns and three interceptions.
If you are considering starting Tannehill due to quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan being on bye weeks, this is not the week to pull the trigger.
Tannehill will be going up against the seventh-ranked passing defense of the San Diego Chargers. He will have to compete against Philip Rivers, who could shred the Dolphins’ third-ranked passing defense, leaving potential room for garbage-time points. Better options are available for this week.
Sit ‘Ems: Carson Palmer (ARI), Alex Smith (KC), Austin Davis (STL)
Sleeper of the Week: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: RGIII could very well return this week against the fourth-ranked Minnesota Vikings defense.
While this squad has not been extremely easy to air the ball out on, Griffin may be inspired to play well, knowing that Colt McCoy is behind him trying to revive his NFL career. McCoy has proven to be serviceable this year, and Griffin knows he will have to play better than his Week one performance where he did not score a touchdown against the Houston Texans.
Start ‘Em of the Week: Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints: The former Heisman-winning running back impressed again in Week eight when he demolished the worst rushing defense in the league in the Green Bay Packers.
Running the ball 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown, he earned fantasy owners plenty of points and will look to do so again in Week nine. He faces off against the fifth-worst rushing defense of the Carolina Panthers in Thursday night football, with the Panthers allowing an average of 135.3 rushing yards per game. Look for Ingram to continue his recent hot streak.
Start ‘Ems: Ahmad Bradshaw (IND), Ronnie Hillman (DEN), Tre Mason (STL)
Sit ‘Em of the Week: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: This may be the week that Murray does not rush for 100 yards. He faces off against the third best rushing defense of the Arizona Cardinals, which is allowing only 77.9 rushing yards per game and has only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns through seven games.
With Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo potentially out with a back injury, the defensive focus will be entirely shifted on DeMarco Murray, especially considering that backup quarterback Brandon Weeden poses more of a threat to the Cowboys than the Cardinals.
Sit ‘Ems: Darren McFadden (OAK), Shane Vereen (NE), LeSean McCoy (PHI)
Sleeper of the Week: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals’ starting running back Gio Bernard left the Bengals’ win over the Baltimore Ravens with a hip injury that “doesn’t appear” to have significant damage.
That will have to be monitored throughout the week, but even if Bernard is active, the Bengals will likely look to take some pressure off of him and give it to the rookie running back who has rushed the ball 50 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Start ‘Em of the Week: Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens: If it had not been for Ben Roethlisberger’s record-setting performance and the Indianapolis Colts’ atrocious pass blocking attempts, the Steelers would have lost in Week eight to the Colts. Andrew Luck still tossed for 400 yards and three touchdowns, despite his two interceptions.
The Ravens are coming off a disappointing divisional loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and will look to rebound when they play their biggest rivals in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Flacco will likely want to air it out against the average Steelers passing defense. Steve Smith Sr. has been Flacco’s favorite target, catching 41 passes for 675 yards and four touchdowns. In a game that’s typically known as a defensive battle, it may turn into a shootout, and Smith would benefit greatly.
Start ‘Ems: Jeremy Maclin (PHI), Brandin Cooks (NO), Mohammad Sanu (CIN)
Sit ‘Em of the Week: Eric Decker, New York Jets: Gang Green has no clue what it is doing. Head coach Rex Ryan did not even know which quarterback he was going to start for their Week nine game against the top-ranked Chiefs passing defense until Monday.
Michael Vick is the slated starter after Geno Smith threw three interceptions against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Michael Vick was not much better for the receivers, only completing 18 of his 36 passes for 153 yards and an interception. The Chiefs will be an even tougher task, and Eric Decker will be lucky to get seven receptions for a mere 40 yards, like he did against the Bills last week.
Sit ‘Ems: Dwayne Bowe (KC), Keenan Allen (SD), Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN)
Sleeper of the Week: Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams: The Rams’ leading receiver, Brian Quick, is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff, making second-year wide out Tavon Austin more important in this offense. Quarterback Austin Davis needs a playmaker, and Tavon Austin can provide that, despite only catching 13 passes for 123 yards thus far in the season.
Kenny Britt is not a game changer, so maybe Austin will be able to provide that spark for the Rams.
Start ‘Em of the Week: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Gronk finally broke out against the Chicago Bears, hauling in nine receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns. If Tom Brady wants to duplicate last week’s success against a more stingy Denver defense, he will have to rely on more than just Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman.
The Pats will have create mismatches with Gronk, and that should not be too much of an issue for them given the connection Brady and him had last week.
Start ‘Ems: Travis Kelce (KC), Antonio Gates (SD)
Sit ‘Em of the Week: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: The elite tight end must have been still recovering from his back injury that kept him sidelined in Week five. In the 49ers’ last two games, Davis has only caught five passes for 51 yards.
He has now had a bye week to finish healing up before taking on the divisional rival St. Louis Rams. Davis only caught three passes for 30 yards in their first contest against the Rams in Week six, and it is hard to expect more, even if he is healthy. The Rams have only allowed 50 receiving yards or more to a tight end once this season.
Sit ‘Ems: Larry Donnell (NYG), Jordan Cameron (CLE)
Sleeper of the Week: Cooper Helfet, Seattle Seahawks: The undrafted 2012 rookie has only caught six passes this season for 115 yards and a touchdown. Three of those passes came against the aforementioned Rams’ defense, as he is the only tight end to eclipse 50 receiving yards against them. The Seahawks take on the winless Oakland Raiders and could find ways to use Cooper Helfet.
Start ‘Em of the Week: Kansas City Chiefs D/ST: The Chiefs are lucky enough to play the abysmal New York Jets at this point in the season when the quarterback position, and status of the Jets’ locker room, is filled with complete chaos amid a seven-loss skid. The top-ranked Chiefs passing defense should be able to send Michael Vick and company into a further tailspin.
Start ‘Ems: Seattle Seahawks D/ST, Cincinnati Bengals D/ST
Sit ‘Em of the Week: St. Louis Rams D/ST: Not many great offenses are playing against putrid defenses this week. The Rams are far from putrid, but they are by no means elite. Colin Kaepernick and company dropped 31 points on this squad in Week seven, and they are fresh coming off a bye week. This does not spell success for the Rams.
Sit ‘Ems: New England Patriots D/ST, Denver Broncos D/ST
Sleeper of the Week: Houston Texans D/ST: While the Texans may not have a very good secondary, they do have J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, who is now healthy. The Texans play the Philadelphia Eagles, and Nick Foles is not the same quarterback as he was in 2013, tossing multiple interceptions with the Eagles’ offense failing to find rhythm at times. If the Texans can catch Foles on a bad day, they could have a great fantasy day.
You can follow Kenneth Goit on Twitter at @KennethGoit
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To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email email@example.com