We are now through eight weeks of the NFL season -- basically, the halfway point. And while it has been a season unlike any other, games have, in fact, been played for eight weeks. Not always in the order expected, but we do have a really good sample size.
One of the challenges of fantasy football is that people like to play with names. But in actuality, we play with numbers. Big-name players don't win you your week; big statistical production does.
I've been doing blind résumés for years upon years, and recently I have seen lots of others using them as well.
So consider these players -- look at the stats before you look at the answer -- then tell me if you feel the same way about these players.
Two quarterbacks (on a per-game basis)
Player A: 21.9 PPG, 68.6% completions, 265.1 pass yards per game, 2.1 TD passes per game
Player B: 22.0 PPG, 67.3% completions, 260.1 pass yards per game, 2.3 TD passes per game
This season (per game)
Player A: 20.6 PPG, 8.6 targets, 5.1 catches, 97.1 yards, 1.0 TDs
Player B: 19.3 PPG, 8.8 targets, 5.8 catches, 87.0 yards, 0.8 TDs
This season (per game)
Player C: 16.4 PPG, 9.6 targets, 6.3 catches, 78.9 yards, 0.38 TDs
Player D: 16.8 PPG, 7.8 targets, 5.8 catches, 73.8 yards, 0.6 TDs
This season (per game)
Player E: 17.8 PPG, 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches, 67.1 yards, 0.88 TDs
Player F: 16.9 PPG, 8.5 targets, 6.8 catches, 73.0 yards, 0.38 TDs
Player G: 14.3 PPG, 0.78 points per touch, one top-10 performance, drafted eighth overall on average
Player H: 14.1 PPG, 0.77 points per touch, two top-10 performances, undrafted in 99.9% of leagues
Since Week 3 (per game)
Player I: 16.0 PPG, 6.8 targets, 4.8 catches, 52.8 yards, 0.67 TDs
Player J: 16.0 PPG, 7.5 targets, 5.0 catches, 75.0 yards, 0.5 TDs
Two quarterbacks, per game
Player K: 27.9 PPG (12.2 PPG as a runner), 66.8% completions, 2.86 total TD per game
Player L: 27.7 PPG (10.9 PPG as a runner), 66.1% completions, 2.87 total TD per game
Two running backs, per game
Player M: 19.1 FPPG, 71.2% of team rush yards, 1.78 yards per carry after contact
Player N: 20.5 FPPG, 71.2% of team rush yards, 1.71 yards per carry after contact
Three WRs this year on a per-game basis
Player O: 19.3 PPG, targeted on 25.9% of routes, 5.8 catches per game, 15 yards per catch
Player P: 18.1 PPG, targeted on 25.1% of routes, 6.3 catches per game, 15.4 yards per catch
Player Q: 17.8 PPG, targeted on 20.1% of routes, 4.4 catches per game, 15.3 yards per catch
Player O is Travis Fulgham again. Player P is Julio Jones. Player Q is Tyreek Hill. In case you haven't figured it out, I'm all-in on Travis Fulgham as the real deal here.
Two running backs, per game
Player R: 8.8 FPPG, 3.7 yards per carry, 1.3 red zone touches per game
Player S: 8.5 FPPG, 4.0 yards per touch, 2.3 red zone touches per game
This season (per game)
Player T: 11.5 PPG, 5.7 targets, 3.3 catches, 39.3 yards, 0.71 TDs
Player U: 12.0 PPG, 3.7 targets, 3.3 catches, 44.1 yards, 0.71 TDs
This season (per game)
Player V: 12.2 PPG, 18.0 touches, 77.3 scrimmage yards, 0.57 TDs (RB25 in total points)
Player W: 12.0 PPG, 7.9 touches, 56.9 scrimmage yards, 0.43 TDs (RB26 in total points)
Food for thought, no? Just remember: Names don't win games. Numbers do.
Let's get to it. Thanks as always to "Thirsty" Kyle Soppe of "The Fantasy Focus 06010" and The Stat-a-pillar from The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ and Damian Dabrowski.
Here we go:
Quarterbacks I love in Week 9
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans, at Jaguars
I'm not sure what Bill O'Brien is up to these days, but I hope he has Watson on all of his fantasy teams. In the three contests since the BOB era ended, Watson is averaging 27.0 fantasy points per game, as compared to just 18.3 FPPG with O'Brien at the helm this season. Now, coming off a bye week, Watson gets to face a Jacksonville defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks during the past four weeks, including over 300 passing yards and more than two passing scores a game. Watson is a top-five play in Week 9, and if you don't start him on Sunday, you deserve to be fired as your team's fantasy manager.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers, vs. Raiders
The autumn wind is a Raider giving up fantasy points just for fun. QBs throw it 'round and upside down, and you'll see your fantasy team has won.
My apologies to the late, great Steve Sabol, but the point of my tortured poem: The Raiders' defense is getting shredded by opposing quarterbacks. For the season, Las Vegas gives up the eighth-most passing yards per game; but over the past four weeks, it is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. With an over/under (as of this writing) of 53 and considering that Herbert is QB5 in fantasy on a per-game basis since he became the starter and has three-plus touchdown passes in four straight games, he is a big Week 9 Love.
Roses are red. Violets are blue. If you don't start Herbert, the joke is on you.
OK, I'll stop.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs. Saints
Every year in the preseason, I am asked to make bold predictions for the season. They're not things I'm saying WILL happen, just things that COULD happen. Now is the part where I bring up one of them and pat myself on the back because one bold prediction I made was Tom Brady having the best statistical season of his career. It could actually happen. Over Brady's past six games, he has 17 touchdowns and just one interception. That's good for 23.5 fantasy points per game. I realize he didn't look great Monday night, and now he is playing a divisional game on a short week, but I'm in on him this week in a big way. With Antonio Brown at his disposal and maybe Chris Godwin too, Brady gets a Saints defense that is allowing touchdown passes at the highest rate in the league. Of the seven QBs to face New Orleans this season, only Nick Foles hasn't scored 19+ fantasy points. In conclusion: Tom Brady is a Week 9 Love, and your old friend Matty B is a genius.*
*If you look only at the Brady call and ignore my other 2020 bold predictions.
Others receiving votes
I know, there's a definite fear that Pittsburgh kills Dallas so bad that Ben Roethlisberger doesn't need to do a lot (just like what happened against Cleveland), but the Cowboys do allow touchdown passes at the second-highest rate. Big Ben has multiple touchdown passes in all but one game this season. ... No Raiders-related poems for Derek Carr, thankfully, just some stats: The Chargers allow the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season, while prior to last week, Carr had multiple touchdown passes in five straight games, and honestly, Carr got jobbed last week. I believe that was a touchdown to Henry Ruggs III that wasn't called correctly. ... This week's winner of the QB Playing the Falcons Award is ... Drew Lock! But it's actually not all about the Falcons being dead last in fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Lock has a hot hand, with a season-high three touchdown passes last week and 81 pass attempts over his past two games.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 9
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, at Colts
Putting a talent such as Jackson on the Hate list can obviously come back to kill me. I get that. But Jackson has been killing a lot of his fantasy managers this season. Jackson has under 200 passing yards in four of his past five games. That's rough, but it wouldn't matter so much if his rushing averages were on pace with 2019. They're not.
2019: 11.7 rushes, 80.4 rushing yards, 0.47 TDs
2020: 9.4 rushes, 58.7 rushing yards, 0.29 TDs
Jackson's 2020 numbers are unlikely to get better this week against a Colts defense that gives up a league-low 13.2 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. You're still starting Jackson on most teams, but I have him outside the top 10 at the position this week. So if you picked up someone like Justin Herbert ... yeah, you can justify sitting last year's No. 2 overall player in fantasy.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, at Buccaneers
The Bucs allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season and give up touchdown passes at the sixth-lowest rate. And while Brees did throw for two touchdown passes in his Week 1 matchup with Tampa Bay, he still scored only 14.4 fantasy points in that game. There's also the chance the Taysom Hill vultures. The good news? We probably won't be inundated by breaking news updates on Brees passing Brady in career touchdown passes this week.
Cam Newton, New England Patriots, at Jets
Yes, it's gotten so bad that Newton is on the Hate list against the winless New York Jets. That happens when you have only two touchdown passes for the season on 156 attempts. Plus, believe it or not, only three times this season has a quarterback scored even 16.5 fantasy points against the Jets. Given how bad the Jets are offensively, Newton isn't likely to be needed to do much to get a win here. Considering Newton is averaging only 12.0 fantasy points in games this season in which he doesn't have MULTIPLE rushing scores, it's hard to justify putting him in Week 9 lineups as a top-12 play, even with the Patriots playing the Jets.
Running backs I love in Week 9
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars, vs. Texans
This isn't a relationship advice column, but I'm going to give you some anyway: Find yourself someone who inspires you to be a better person. Take the Houston Texans' defense, for example. Opposing running backs improve their season average against the Texans by a league-high 24.9%. Running backs become their best selves against the Texans, all thanks to a single afternoon together. It's beautiful. Over the past four weeks, the Texans have two-stepped their way to allowing over 135 rushing yards a game to running backs. This week, Robinson goes on a date with the Texans. Considering Robinson has seen 95% of Jacksonville running back carries this season and has a growing role in the passing game (at least four receptions in five consecutive games), he should find true fantasy Love in Week 9.
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals, vs. Dolphins
The Arizona Cardinals Twitter feed probably will tell you this after the game, but I'm here to tell you about it beforehand: Start Edmonds in fantasy this week. Despite averaging just 8.8 touches in the past four games, he has 15-plus fantasy points in three of his past four. Now, with Kenyan Drake out, Edmonds should see a big increase in touches, and that sets him up for a huge fantasy day. In four career games with 10-plus touches, Edmonds averages 20.1 fantasy points per game. And over the past four weeks, the Dolphins are allowing 121.6 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry to running backs. Edmonds needs to be started in every league as long as Drake is on the shelf.
Todd Gurley II, Atlanta Falcons, vs. Broncos
Pay respect to the Toddfather: He just keeps producing. Gurley has a rushing touchdown in six of eight games this season and is tied with Derrick Henry for the most red zone carries among running backs. Gurley hasn't been especially efficient this season, but with at least 18 touches in four consecutive games, it hasn't really mattered. He should get plenty of touches -- and touchdown opportunities -- against a Broncos defense allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs over the past four weeks.
Others receiving votes
The RB1 job in Washington officially belongs to Antonio Gibson. He had a season-high 20 carries in his most recent game, and he has tallied at least four receptions in three of his past four outings. That volume again this week should allow him to do damage against a Giants defense that over the past four weeks is allowing the fifth-most catches per game to running backs. ... Zack Moss has only one less touch than Devin Singletary in the past two games and holds a big edge in red zone and goal-to-go carries. Moss is the Buffalo back you want this week as a flex play.
Running backs I hate in Week 9
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys, vs. Steelers
Who has done more the past three weeks to bolster his MVP case than Dak Prescott? The quarterback's season-ending injury has been brutal for the Cowboys' offense, and that includes the team's star RB. Just RB33 over those three weeks, Elliott has 80 or fewer scrimmage yards in three straight games and only three red zone carries in that stretch. Here's why: In those three games since Prescott hurt his right ankle, 79.1% of Elliott's carries have come with at least seven defenders in the box. That was only 47.2% with Prescott. With either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush slated to start this week against a Steelers defense that allows the sixth-fewest points per game to running backs, prepare for Elliott to have another fantasy week outside the top 10.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts, vs. Ravens
I call him Jonathan Taylor Thomas because his career started strong and then he disappeared. ("Home Improvement" reference, anyone? No? OK, fine.) Anyway ... Jonathan Taylor the football player hasn't had more than 68 rushing yards in a game since Week 2, and last week he played just 33% of snaps -- his lowest total since Marlon Mack went down. Even if Taylor gets more work this week (there are thoughts he isn't 100 percent healthy), it will be hard to do much with it against the Ravens, who allow the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this season and have given up just two rushing touchdowns to RBs. Even if some members of the Ravens' defense miss this game due to being on the COVID-19 list, it's still a tough matchup for a player in a RBBC. So yeah, if I told you to start Taylor this week, you could call me the "Lyin' King." (Jonathan Taylor Thomas was the voice of Young Simba in the original "Lion King" movie. Come on, people! Read up on your J.T.T.!)
Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos, at Falcons
Is Atlanta's rush defense actually good? Or is the Falcons' pass defense so bad that teams don't need to run against them? I'll take a little from Category A and B. But the fact is, the Falcons over the past four weeks have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game to running backs, as well as just one rushing touchdown in that stretch. Add to it that Gordon has only 10 more carries than Phillip Lindsay in his past two games -- and is averaging a whopping 7.0 yards per carry LESS than Lindsay over that stretch -- and Gordon is just outside the top 20 for me this week.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 9
Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills, vs. Seahawks
After a great start, he has just been very good, bordering on fine. Just one score in his past five games, he has been held under 50 yards in two of the past three. Lots of receptions have helped, however, and this week he gets back to his dominant, awesome, top-five ways from the start of the year. The Seahawks allow the most catches and yards per game to wide receivers this season and the most deep receptions as well. Seattle also gives up an average of 21.3 fantasy points per game to wide receivers who get seven or more targets against them. All of this sets up perfectly for Diggs, who is averaging a career-high 10 targets per game this season. Buffalo's passing game has been grounded in recent weeks, but that's nothing Seattle's defense can't fix.
Will Fuller V, Houston Texans, at Jaguars
The Texans reportedly asked for a big return from the Packers at the trade deadline for Fuller and I can't blame them. I'd ask for a lot for Fuller at the fantasy trade deadline too. He has scored in five consecutive games and is averaging 7.4 targets per game over that stretch. I wouldn't just give away that kind of production, especially not when Fuller is about to face a Jaguars defense that is allowing the fifth-highest catch rate to wide receivers and has already given up six deep TD receptions, tied for third most in the league. Am I legitimately high on Fuller this week or am I just trying to drive up the trade price on him in leagues in which I have him? Let's call it a little of both.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants, at Washington
Daniel Jones has thrown 28 passes toward Shepard this year. Shepard has caught 22 of them. When you see Jones' accuracy this year, that's actually a really impressive number. The clear-cut No. 1 target for Danny Dimes (18 targets in the two games since he came back), Shepard has double-digit fantasy points in all three full games he has played this season. And when Jones is under pressure on Sunday vs. Washington's strong defensive line (and he will be), his first read is likely to be Shepard, who is an underrated No. 1 wide receiver on a functional (not great but functional) offense. Shepard is a borderline WR2 this week.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions, at Vikings
So, yeah, if a person owns a Lions helmet and a set of hands, you may want to consider playing them in fantasy this week. I know, there is a chance Matthew Stafford doesn't play this week and that would certainly lower expectations here, but lowered expectations is basically "tight end" in another language. Given the dearth of production at the tight end spot and the dearth of talent on the Vikings' defense, it may not matter who is throwing the ball. The Vikings give up the most yards per game to opposing tight ends and Hockenson, who has 10-plus points in three of his past four games, should get even more targets with Kenny Golladay out, giving him a Week 9 matchup that's about as good as you can get in 2020 at the tight end position.
Others receiving votes:
A league-high 15.6% of deep passes versus Dallas this season have resulted in a touchdown -- double the league average. Meanwhile, Chase Claypool has averaged at least 12.5 air yards per target in five of his seven games this season. It's hard to know which Steelers receiver to pick week to week, but the matchup suggests Week 9 is a Claypool week. ... Jerry Jeudy is beginning to emerge halfway through his rookie season, getting a season-high 10 targets last week. Similar volume this week would give him an opportunity for nice numbers against that Falcons' pass defense. ... The suddenly struggling Titans are bottom-three in the league on a per-game basis in catches and yards allowed to wide receivers this season. With Darnell Mooney now the clear WR2 in Chicago, consider him as a Week 9 flex or DFS play. ... Atlanta has allowed a league-high 18.9 fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. That suggests a lot of Noah (don't do it, don't do it, don't do it, don't do it) FANT-asy points this week. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) ... Looking for some more, or any, production from your tight end spot? If you didn't draft Travis Kelce, the answer is probably yes. Then take a look at Logan Thomas of the Football Team. He has 40-plus yards and a touchdown in each of his past two games and actually ranks third among all tight ends in routes per game this season.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 9
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys, vs. Steelers
Cooper had one catch for 5 yards last week in The Ben DiNucci Game. That kind of production almost feels optimistic against a Steelers defense that allows the seventh-lowest catch rate to wide receivers and leads the league in both pressure and blitz rate this season. Whichever random quarterback or unlucky fan who loses a contest plays QB for Dallas this week will have no time to make plays downfield -- and fantasy managers should spend a lot of time thinking about just how desperate they are. Cooper is a risky WR3 in this one.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs. Saints
Peanut butter and jelly. Jordan and Pippen. Matthew Berry and Field Yates. Iconic duos all. But Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are not on that prestigious list. Get this: Evans is averaging just 7.3 fantasy points per game and a paltry three targets with Godwin active this season. We don't know for sure yet if Godwin will play in Week 9, but Antonio Brown will. Evans' targets are likely to drop and, per Mike Clay, he's also likely to get a Marcus Lattimore shadow. In his past three games against the Saints, Evans has just five catches, 71 yards and a single touchdown ... total. I expect his struggles against New Orleans to continue on Sunday. Oh, I thought of one more iconic duo: Mike Evans and the Week 9 Hate list.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins, at Cardinals
Arizona is shutting down the deep ball this season, yielding the fewest catches and yards on deep passes in the entire NFL. On top of that, the Cardinals are allowing the lowest completion percentage on end zone targets. Add to it that we have no idea what this offense really looks like under Tua Tagovailoa. He threw for just 93 yards last week in a game the defense and special teams of Miami dominated. Consider Parker, who should see plenty of Patrick Peterson in this matchup, as nothing more than a low-end flex play in Week 9.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans, vs. Bears
Even Smith hasn't been able to escape the black hole that is the 2020 tight end position, netting just six targets, three catches and 38 yards total over the past two weeks. He also has joined the ranks of the touchdown-dependent TEs: Smith is now averaging a mere 5.0 points per game in his four games without a touchdown this season. Not a huge surprise when you consider that he ranks 28th at the position in routes per game. Unfortunately, in a game against Chicago's tough defense this week, that means Smith also joins the ranks of my Week 9 Hates.