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Each week, our staff here at QB List will be previewing all the fantasy-relevant things you should be on the lookout for in this week’s games. Today, we preview all the upcoming Week 9 action.
Bears vs. Bills
The Bears regained first place in the NFC North after an important win against the New York Jets. They have another choice matchup this week against the Buffalo Bills with the chance to match last season’s win total halfway through the season. I expect a big week from the offense and defense, and I hope Matt Nagy has the chance to play around with the play calling once a safe lead is established. Still, I remember the Dolphins game and what I thought would be an easy win there. I also like the defense’s chances against Nathan Peterman…one of the worst quarterbacks I’ve ever seen.
Who do I want in the passing game?
Mitch Trubisky is coming off four straight big fantasy performances, and he is just about a sure thing at this point. Still, the Buffalo pass defense has been tough this year against opposing quarterbacks. If I had to guess, I’d say the Bears do enough, remembering Trubisky’s rushing upside, to put up good stats. As for the receivers, I love Taylor Gabriel if Allen Robinson is out. There should be enough volume to give him value. If Robinson is playing, things get a little trickier. There are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed, and Coach Nagy likes playing to what the defense gives him. The question will be what does the defense give?
And how about the running game?
Once again, I am riding the hot hand in Tarik Cohen as he has a safe floor in the passing game, some rushing upside, and the weekly shot to break a big play…like last week’s 70 yard touchdown grab. Still, I feel like the rushing upside will never fully be there like it is for Jordan Howard. I also like Howard this week as the Bears may try to avoid the tough Bills passing defense. I keep thinking that either choice would be infinitely more valuable if the other went down, but it doesn’t seem to be happening…not that I’m hoping for an injury.
And the defense…will this be a return to form?
The biggest slam dunk this week should be the Chicago Bears defense. Nathan Peterman is a walking disaster, and he should be fantasy gold this week. I know we were here before with Brock Osweiler, but I just don’t see lightning striking twice. Let’s factor in that the Bills give up more fantasy points to opposing defenses than anyone else, and this one couldn’t be any better. Start it all day and don’t look back.
The Buffalo Bills are entering week 9 coming off a Monday Night Football performance in which they lost 25-6, but the game was much closer than the final score indicated. The Bills defense held a QB Tom Brady led New England Patriots defense to field goals for much of the night, but unfortunately the Bills offense led by veteran QB Derek Anderson struggled to put up points as well. This Bills squad is a team in which the lead RB LeSean McCoy is averaging just 36.71 rushing yards per game, starting QBs are averaging 175.6 yards passing per game, and the top WR Zay Jones is averaging just 35.1 yards per game. This is simply not a talented team and that means little fantasy relevance, especially this week against the Chicago Bears who rank 1st in total defense according to Football Outsiders. Each week provides different situations and new opportunities though so let’s take a look at the fantasy relevant information you need to know about regarding the Buffalo Bills this week:
QB Nathan Peterman is slated to start the game this week? Is there any hope?
QB Nathan Peterman is a guy that the Buffalo Bills have given a number of chances to, he’s started 3 games and played in 7 over the last two years and responded with a rough 3 TDs against 9 INTs with just a 45.7 completion% on 81 attempts. He also famously threw 5 INTs in a single half against the Los Angeles Chargers last November in his first NFL start. The outlook certainly isn’t bright, and I think you would be unwise to trust him this week at all.
He gets to go up against the Chicago Bears this week which seems like cruelty as they rank top 5 in both pass and rush defense according to Football Outsiders. The rest of the Bills offense likely won’t be a big help either as the offensive line struggles continue (given up 29 sacks which is 4th worst in the NFL and Football Outsiders rank them 31st in pass protection) and the receiving group ranks dead last in a number of categories including passer rating when targeted at 44.4. The lack of success in Peterman’s career and the tough matchup against the Chicago Bears point to this being a potentially ugly scene for Peterman and the Bills this week.
Is RB LeSean McCoy worth starting this week and what will the touches breakdown look like among the RB group?
RB LeSean McCoy is averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry and has yet to score a touchdown this season. It has definitely been a tough season for him and for owners of his in fantasy leagues. The good news is that he does seem to be healthy for the most part, he showed flashes of his usual burst last week. He struggled to find running lanes though and got caught dancing behind the line a few times and I thought his disappointing line was a case of some slight indecisiveness. I fear that the indecisiveness may continue this week as the Bills line up to face the 3rd ranked rush defense according to Football Outsiders. With QB Nathan Peterman likely in over his head at this point, the Bills may try focus on utilizing their zone run-blocking schemes and I think they can potentially grind out first downs doing so, but there will be stacked boxes to go through and I could see it being a low efficiency game for McCoy. McCoy for the season is used to stacked boxes in front of him as he has faced 8+ defenders in the box 22.67% of the time which is a top 20 mark in the league.
Expect McCoy to get most of the workload, something similar to last week’s 66% of the rushes which if you give the Bills 25 rushing attempts, would break down to 17-18 for McCoy and 8-9 for 2nd-string RB Chris Ivory. Ivory perhaps deserves a bigger share of the load after a strong week 8 performance in which he racked up 34 yards on just 6 attempts (5.7 YPC) by running effectively between the tackles up the middle. Given the matchup though, I think it’s wise to leave both on the bench unless desperate for McCoy’s volume and the potential that comes with it.
Will anyone in the receiving group step up into fantasy relevance?
Presumed #1 WR Kelvin Benjamin finished with 17 catches and 226 yards with 1 TD as a member of the Bills last year including the playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Benjamin picked up 6 of those receptions, 91 of those yards, and the only TD while Peterman was under center last year and it’s clear that there’s a strong rapport between the duo. That could lead to him picking up some half decent numbers simply on volume of targets alone. Benjamin hasn’t been a good receiver this year though as he has struggled to get open (tied for lowest avg yards of separation at target in the NFL) and it has led to a poor efficiency in terms of catching the ball (36.36% catch rate which is 2nd worst in the NFL). I think he’s best left on the bench or even on the waiver wire.
#2 WR Zay Jones continues to show signs of a breakout and I continue to be high on his future outlook. He can get open effectively and did so with a 3.1 avg yards of separation at target mark last week, and that contributes to him having the space to come down with balls and leads to a quality catch efficiency. He caught 6 of 8 targets last week for 55 yards and more is yet to come as the Bills have been utilizing a short/quick passing game more frequently in recent weeks. He’s clearly the most talented receiver on the roster at this point, and has earned the trust of all Bills QB so far. He could be worth a flex spot if desperate with other players on Bye weeks.
TE Charles Clay continues to work in the short/quick passing game but his lack of downfield routes limits his overall upside. It’s become clear that without former Bills QB Tyrod Taylor under center, that Clay’s role in the offense is less valued and he should be considered a low-end bench option or more likely left on the waiver wire.
Will the Bills D/ST unit be able to slow the improved Chicago Bears offense?
While it only led to just 2 fantasy points in standard ESPN scoring, the Bills defensive unit played very well last week against the QB Tom Brady led New England Patriots and kept the team in the game until late. This has not been uncommon as very quietly, the Bills defense has been a quality unit. The Bills rank 4th overall in defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders, and sport the 4th ranked pass defense and the 12th ranked rush defense. I would expect the Chicago Bears to utilize their running backs early and often, both on the ground and in the air. On the ground is where the Bills are less effective at defending as mentioned above, and through the air has been the Bills achilles heel as they rank 26th in the NFL in terms of DVOA on passes to the opposing RB. Getting the ball out quickly to the running backs should also help keep Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky upright as the Bills do apply a lot of pressure with a pass rush that has generated 21 sacks so far which ranks tied for 11th best in the NFL. I think the numbers suggest a potential big day for RB Tarik Cohen this week. Overall though, I do think the Bills D/ST unit could be a worthwhile streaming option with their skill and ability to create havoc being enhanced by the hostile home crowd that should be rocking as usual.
Bust: Kelvin Benjamin
Sleeper: Zay Jones