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Fantasy Football Week 9: Wandering the Waiver Wire

By Alexander Hough in News on Nov 1, 2011 4:00PM

Chris Johnson, seen here getting tackled right around the line of scrimmage yet again, ruining your fantasy football season. (AP Photo)
What do you mean there were no new significant NFL injuries? A league-wide clean bill of health like the one suffered - er, received - last weekend makes our job challenging. Fantasy football is blood sport.

But even blood sport requires strategy, and there's some interesting stuff going on around the league that may prove useful on the fake football field.

The Trend That Wasn't
After the first two weeks of byes, teams coming off their extra week of rest were 3-9, a win percentage far below that of previous years. People desperately trying to find material to write about, more commonly known as "sportswriters," were quick to attribute this trend to the CBA's new rule that players must get four consecutive days off during a bye week. Rust will doom our rested teams!

And then five of the six teams coming off their bye last Sunday won, all by convincing margins (except the Giants who nearly crapped the bed against the Dolphins).

If we really want to see what was happening, let's look at the current records of the teams that have come off byes so far in 2011

  • Weeks 6 and 7: 31-51 (.378 win percentage)
  • Week 8: 29-13 (.690 win percentage)

Here's your actual trend: Good teams tend to win. Bad teams tend to lose.

Bye weeks remain a strategic help - we expect the eventual post-bye week record to settle to what it's been historically (the average win percentage of the previous 4 seasons was .582) - but we don't consider byes that useful for fantasy purposes. The one exception is that we'll use it as a tiebreaker for selecting a D/ST to play; all things being equal, choose the D/ST that has had an extra week to scheme. Otherwise, you'll want to use the tried, true, and simpler method: start the best players available with the best matchups who play on the best teams.

The Fantasy Scrap Heap
The fortunes of NFL players are notoriously ephemeral, where physical attributes suddenly drift away like so many autumn leaves, and where fantasy output is largely dependent on one's teammates.

Still, it's surprising to see the name brand fantasy free agents out there. One of our leagues boasts the following waiver wire residents: Felix Jones, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, and Ryan Grant. If stars of previous seasons such as Peyton Hillis, DeAngelo Williams, and LaDainian Tomlinson get cut soon, too, we'll understand.

Well, after a painful first half of the season, it's time to toss out Tennessee RB Chris Johnson, he of the 2.8 yards/carry. His huge contract with $30 million in guarantees might not cramp your style like it does the poor Titans, but his anemic output is definitely a burden. In last Sunday's game against the Colts and their 31st ranked rush defense, Johnson squeezed out a meager 34 yards on 14 carries (2.4 yards/carry). His ostensible backup, Javon Ringer, received the same number of carries but turned them into 60 yards (4.3 yards/carry). More tellingly, Ringer received the majority of carries at the end of the game. We all know what Johnson is capable of, but we are done waiting around for him to work out his issues. Consider this your reality check of the week. Pick up Ringer.

Fantasy Defenses in Trouble
As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I can't quite put into words how soothing Sunday night's ass-whomping of the Cowboys was, so instead I'll just kick my feet up, put on a shit-eating grin, and sigh contentedly. Adding injury to insult, Dallas also suffered a rash of defensive injuries - basically, their most important players outside of stud pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Ware, by the way, notched 4 more sacks, giving him a total of 12 and putting him on pace to break Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 sacks (Minnesota's Jared Allen is also on pace with 12.5). As long as we're discussing NFL history, let's not forget that Brett Favre rigged Strahan's record-breaking sack, presumably because Favre is an egomaniac who will do anything to be in the spotlight. Sure, he cast a pall over someone else's record, but, hey, he was just having fun out there.

Anyhow, NT Jay Ratliff, LB Sean Lee, and CB Mike Jenkins all suffered injuries of yet-to-be-determined severity. It sounds like Ratliff will be fine, which bodes well for the Cowboys' stellar-until-Sunday-night rush defense. But keep an eye on Lee and Jenkins, and be wary of the effect it might have on the team's middling pass defense (Lee, an all-around great LB, is terrific in coverage).

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense also took a hit, losing LB LaMarr Woodley to a hamstring injury. We're not sweating it too much for a few reasons: First and foremost, it sounds like James Harrison may return from his injury this weekend. Second, the Steelers have a habit of developing bench talent, particularly at the linebacker position. And third, man, Dick LeBeau! The Steelers defensive coordinator is old as hell and still manages to come up with brilliant game plans, like last Sunday when they held New England to 213 total yards (the Patriots had been averaging 343 yards/game prior).