Fantasy Football fans, welcome to Week 9!
This is the point in the season where contending teams should be focused on shoring up their rosters – trading for handcuffs, building depth, and getting ready for a stretch run. Teams that are 2-6, 3-5 aren’t out of the picture just yet, but this is the time to take more drastic measures. Maybe you need to move your best player in a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 trade…something to shake things up and get on the winning track.
Looking towards tonight’s NFL fare, we find two teams that also need to get on the winning track. Both the Chiefs and the Chargers had ugly performances last week, and are dealing with the wrath of fans and reporters alike.
At 1-6, Kansas City needs to find an identity, and quickly. Unfortunately, Coach Crennel didn’t exactly inspire confidence earlier this week trying to explain how Jamaal Charles saw such limited work against the Raiders. The Chargers record is a bit better, but at 3-4, their fans have seen two bad losses in a row, and the restlessness is growing in sunny San Diego.
So what is a fantasy owner to do considering this matchup of teams that scored a combined 22 points (with one lone TD) last week? Other than my sage advice to start the kickers (not really, but if you’ve got ‘em, by all means roll them out there), allow me to focus this week’s three-fer on a couple of guys you might be thinking of leaving on the bench, and one you can probably still grab on your waiver wire.
1. Jamaal Charles
I know, this is pretty close to “start your studs” territory, and I try to focus this column on some lesser-known guys, but given Charles’ underwhelming fantasy point totals in his last two games (that would be 4, unless you play PPR, in which case it bubbles to 9) I know a lot of owners who are considering keeping JC on the pine this week against the NFL’s #2 ranked run defense.
While recent performance has been shaky, Charles has been a solid bounce-back performer over his career. I also think the fallout over his lack of use last week will have the coaching staff looking for more opportunities to get Charles involved against the Chargers this week. Even with Peyton Hillis back in the mix, Charles should have a lot of chances to put up fantasy points tonight. If you need further convincing, Charles has averaged just under 20 points in his last two games versus San Diego.
I expect a solid game from Charles – 15 carries for 90 yards and a TD, 4 catches for 18 yards giving him over 100 total yards on the night.
2. Antonio Gates
If I had suggested Gates prior to last week’s game against the Browns he, too, would have been close to the “start your studs” line. Given his two-catch, 14-yard stat line on Sunday I know most Gates owners are about ready to throw in the towel. Assuming you haven’t already sent him to the waiver wire or packaged him in a trade for Jahvid Best and Tom Crabtree, Gates will prove his worth to fantasy owners tonight against the Chiefs.
Philip Rivers will have more time in the pocket against the Chiefs’ pass rush, and Kansas City is allowing more than two receiving TDs per game so far in 2012. Even the Chargers’ dysfunctional offense will have success at home, and Gates has a bit to prove given that his week four game in Kansas City was his worst performance against the Chiefs since 2007.
I look for Gates to catch six passes for 75 yards and to have at least one trip to the end zone.
3. Dexter McCluster
After a few years of insisting that McCluster would be a serviceable running back, it seems like the Chiefs finally found a viable role for McCluster in their 2012 offense. Even in the preseason games the Chiefs were featuring McCluster as a wide receiver, and his 10-target game in Week 1 seemed to indicate his involvement in the Chiefs’ offensive schemes. His usage diminished somewhat after a nasty injury versus the Saints, that is diminished until the last two games.
Against both the Buccaneers and the Raiders, McCluster was targeted eight times, converting six into catches for 39 and 54 yards respectively. Throw in a TD against the Raiders last week, and McCluster has quietly reclaimed a spot in the Chiefs’ offensive attack. While he wasn’t heavily involved in the first game with the Chargers (returning too soon from that injury) I think McCluster will see plenty of throws from Matt Cassel, Ricky Stanzi or whoever else the Chiefs decide to try out at QB tonight.
McCluster won’t set the world on fire, but if you’re in a PPR league and need a flex player, you could do worse. I see McCluster catching five passes for 40 yards and wouldn’t be surprised if he scored a TD for the second week in a row.
Enjoy the game tonight! Good luck in your fantasy matchups, and don’t forget – get aggressive if you haven’t crested the .500 mark yet. Time is running short!