"These are the times that try men's souls."
In 1776, when the great Revolutionary War author Thomas Paine wrote those words, he was obviously forecasting this past weekend. Le'Veon Bell, Matt Forte, Keenan Allen and Steve Smith Sr. suffered injuries, adding to a star-studded all-injury team that already had Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson on it, and if you drafted early enough, Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin, too.
From 1776 to '83, Paine wrote a series of pamphlets about the Revolutionary War called "The American Crisis," which was, it should be noted, insanely popular. (The series, not the war.) In the series, he discussed the challenges and questions facing the average fantasy football owner while the country was being torn apart. The pathos and anguish one must endure when not only fighting for his freedom but also recognizing that he spent a top-10 draft pick on C.J. Anderson. I mean, he's not overt about it, but if you read between the lines, it's there.
Many of the young patriots that Tom (I call him Tom) was writing to are like young Jeff here, who writes (edited for length):
What is a man to do? The fantasy football gods have spoken. I am still trying to figure out what I did or said wrong. In a matter of two weeks, I've gone from powerhouse to "middle of the road." My confidence has taken a hit. I've lost Arian Foster, Le'Veon Bell AND Keenan Allen. Oh, did I mention I am also the proud owner of Matt Forte? The injury bug has been caught with sure hands. Any words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.
I hear you, Jeff. I hear all of you. Your cries for help, for solace. I'm right there with you myself. Lost Le'Veon and Arian in my 14-team dynasty league. Lost Keenan in my 16-team league where there is no depth. I can't remember a weekend (or a season) with more big-name, long-lasting injuries.
It has been a brutal week for the players, for the teams and for us fantasy owners. My heart and best wishes go out to all the players and their families for an easy and fast recovery.
But young Jeff, your request for words of healing have been heard and now will be granted. One fantasy nation, under the fantasy gods, turns its lonely eyes to you, Joe DiMaggio. Wait, what?
Much like Thomas Paine did in 1776, we need to rally together in our time of crisis. Individually, we cannot make a difference, but together there is strength in numbers.
Jeff asks the right question. What have we done wrong? It's not just Jeff. It's all of us. We have angered the fantasy gods. Smote them. Besmirched them. Some other old-timey word to them.
Maybe it was too many daily fantasy ads. Maybe it was too much worrying about stats over players and teams. Maybe, just maybe, it was this tweet:
Anything else boss??? https://t.co/ZagFq3f9LT— john smokey brown (@Jwalk_back12) November 1, 2015
... or this one:
Arians on those disappointed John Brown was active and didn't play: "Probably had him on their fantasy team. Tough s**t."— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) November 2, 2015
This much is clear. We need new fantasy karma. And it can only come about by all of us, working as one, trying to right the wrongs of a nation of fantasy football freaks.
This weekend, as you set your lineup, I want you to recite this. All of us, working together, can fix this.
A Fantasy Prayer
Dear fantasy gods in the sky, please forgive us for our sins.
Turn the other cheek to our poor roster decisions,
Our bad waiver moves and our ridiculous trade offers.
Keep our players healthy and our commissioner honest.
For thine is the trophy, the championship and the glory.
Let's get to it. As always, Love/Hate is not a pure start/sit column, but rather players I believe will exceed or fall short of general expectations. For all start/sit questions, please consult my flex rankings. I update them throughout the week up until Sunday morning. Shout out to Jacob Nitzberg and Robert Nelson of ESPN Stats & Information for their help. And away we go ...
Quarterbacks I love in Week 9
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Brace yourself (See what I did there? Brace? Whatever. This is too good for the likes of you) if you face Big Ben this week because he's about to go there. See? I'm not only hilarious but super-current too. Whatever delusions I have, you shouldn't ignore the fact that he's at home (where he has averaged more than 340 passing yards a game since the start of last season) going against an Oakland secondary that is traveling east for a 1 p.m. game and is 29th against the pass the past five weeks. Only one QB has failed to score at least 17 points against Oakland (and that includes the Ryan Fitzpatrick/Geno Smith combo). Ben is my No. 1 QB this week.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Fifty-two. Dude. Even if you are a woman. I repeat. Fifty-two. During the past four weeks, Philip Rivers has averaged 52 pass attempts per game. Only the Fightin' Jim Bob Cooters, er, Lions have dropped back to pass on a higher percentage of plays than the Chargers have. No Keenan Allen, no problem. Only three teams in the NFL have given up more touchdown passes than the Chicago Bears.
So you're telling me there's a chance: If Big Ben is throwing, so will Derek Carr, who has three touchdowns and no interceptions in each of the past two games. The only other guy to do that in consecutive games this year? Tom Brady in Weeks 1-2. Carr is averaging 297 passing yards in his past five non-Denver games and the Steelers are 27th against the pass in the past five weeks. ... Yes, here I am saying something positive about Peyton Manning. He looked a lot better last week and now gets an Indy team on a short week that has allowed more than 300 passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game over the past four. ... If you're really stuck during this big bye week, I could see Jameis Winston (19 points in two straight) being solid against a Giants secondary that was struggling before Drew Brees lit them up for seven TDs. ... Junk time counts the same as all other scoring, so hello, Kirk Cousins!
The price is right: As always, any of the players listed in "Love" are players that I like this week in daily, but specific to DraftKings.com, here are a few players I like based on their prices. All prices quoted are from DraftKings.
Tyrod Taylor is just $5,300 and, on a points-per-game basis, is the fifth-best QB in fantasy. Miami has allowed 50 fantasy points to Brian Hoyer and Tom Brady in the past two weeks and now has to try to get pressure without Cameron Wake. ... Jay Cutler has at least 18 points in DK scoring in four straight, is just $5,200 and I expect Monday night to be a high-scoring affair. ... I know I mentioned him above, but Ben Roethlisberger at $6,600 should be in a lot of lineups.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 9
Andrew Luck, Colts: Struggling QB, shaky offensive line, T.Y. Hilton banged up. Ask the Aaron Rodgers owner in your league if you should start your QB against the Broncos. Want a stat to help you decide? Denver has given up just five touchdown passes this season and Luck has the third-worst completion percentage in the NFL when under pressure (25 percent). The Broncos pressure opponents on 37.3 percent of dropbacks, most in the NFL.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: In three career games against Buffalo on the road, he is averaging 154.7 yards per game and has just two touchdowns total. The Bills are fourth against the pass the past five weeks, and just a general thing, I never like going against a team that is at home off a bye week with a middle-of-the-road player.
Matt Ryan, Falcons: For all the troubles the 49ers have, they actually play solid defense at home, having held Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson to below 13 points a game. Expect a lot of Devonta Freeman in this one and little offensive scoring from the 49ers, keeping Ryan's numbers fairly low.
Running backs I love in Week 9
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, Bengals: OK, so you know the Browns are terrible against the run. I get it, smart guy. But did you know they also have allowed the third-most receiving yards and second-most yards per catch (11.3) to opposing RBs this season? I didn't think so. If ever there were a time for a bust-out game, this is it, Jeremy. I have Hill as a top-10 play this week and Bernard as a low-end RB2 with upside.
Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, Patriots: Over the past five weeks, no team in the NFL has given up more rushing yards a game than the Washington Redskins. Like the Bengals above, the Patriots have two usable running backs, and on Sunday, use them they shall.
Jeremy Langford, Bears: So you just got your shiny new waiver pickup and you know what you're doing? Putting him right into your lineup. I expect Langford to get a workload similar to Matt Forte's (or, at least, he'll have the opportunity to initially) and I expect him to do well with it. The Chargers allow 5.0 yards per carry, most in the league, and they've given up 100-yard games to four different rushers this season, second most in the league.
So you're telling me there's a chance: The Bengals allow seven catches per game to opposing running backs this season and with Johnny Manziel behind center, I could see an emphasis on the run game and shorter passes on the road against Cincy, putting Duke Johnson Jr. squarely on the flex-play-with-upside radar. ... New Titans coach Mike Mularkey says they are going to feed Antonio Andrews this Sunday, and against Rob Ryan's 22nd-ranked run defense the past five weeks, he'll have some success. ... Especially for deeper PPR leagues, Ryan Mathews now has 95 yards from scrimmage and a score in three of his past five, while Dallas is giving up the second-most receiving yards to opposing running backs this season.
The price is right: As always, everyone already mentioned as a "Love" is someone to also consider for daily, but specific to DraftKings.com, here are some players I like this week along with their prices. All prices quoted are from DraftKings.
Healthy, off his bye week and facing a Miami team that, not counting the Titans game, has given up 27.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in the past four games, makes LeSean McCoy and his $5,500 price tag (tied for just 13th most) pretty interesting. ... Based on volume and DraftKings' PPR scoring format, Darren McFadden's $4,300 price tag seems like stealing against an Eagles team that is 23rd against the run the past five weeks. ... A lot of the guys I already mentioned (including Langford at $4,000 and Andrews at $3,600) have nice prices, but with Khiry Robinson out for the season, it would seem the door is open for a bigger role for C.J. Spiller (just $3,100) at home against the Titans. I wouldn't use him in cash games, but Spiller's upside and price make him worth a look in tournaments.
Running backs I hate in Week 9
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: Yes, Latavius Murray ran all over the Jets last week, but this is a home game and one the Jets have to win. Even after last week's brutal, embarrassing, horrific, putrid, ugly, weak-willed, sloppy, unprepared, below-professional-level effort against the Raiders (did I get minus-6 from the Jets' defense last week in a game I lost by four points? Why, yes, yes I did. Why do you ask?), the Jets still have given up just one rushing touchdown all season long and have allowed the fewest yards per carry. Yeldon is outside my top 20.
Frank Gore, Colts: In a short week, after getting 22 carries in a five-quarter game, you could see a reduced workload for the 32-year-old Gore, especially against a Broncos team that is top 10 in the NFL in fewest rushing yards per game in the past five and fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers: I'll be point-blank honest. I am trying, desperately, to reverse jinx him here. Let's hope this jump-starts him, because nothing we've seen so far suggests you should be starting him. Gordon's 103 rushing attempts this season are the most by any player without a rushing touchdown, and believe it or not, the Bears have given up just two rushing TDs this season, tied for the fewest in the NFL.
Any Giants RB: Even if you could figure out which guy was going to get the most work, the Bucs have not allowed a rushing score to a RB since Week 3. In fact, from Weeks 4-8, opposing RBs have averaged only 3.25 yards a carry against them, fourth lowest in the league.
Wide receivers I love in Week 9
Alshon Jeffery, Bears: No Matt Forte, no Eddie Royal. Jay Cutler is running out of guys to throw to. Alshon has 11 or more targets in every game he has played this season and I expect that number to go up Monday night. He's got more than 100 yards and a score in each of his past two games, and the Bolts have coughed up more than 200 yards to wideouts in each of their past two games.
Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd, Chargers: Speaking of Monday night ... no Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates is clearly not 100 percent and the Chargers can't run the ball. I love those powder blues, however. During the past four weeks, no quarterback has thrown the ball more than Philip Rivers and the volume continues on Monday night. Get this: One out of every five completions versus Chicago has gone for 20-plus yards, one of every eight has gone for a score. In fact, the Bears are tied for the second-most touchdown passes allowed to opposing wideouts.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers: See Roethlisberger, Ben. You're already starting Antonio Brown, but Bryant is a top-20 play to me this week as well. Since making his season debut in Week 6, Bryant leads the Steelers with 231 receiving yards and three receiving scores, and he has five end zone targets, most in the league among WRs in that span.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings: Diggs has at least six receptions in every game he has played, so it's clear Teddy Bridgewater digs (ducks) Stefon. Only DeAndre Hopkins has a longer streak of games with six or more receptions, and Diggsy, as only I call him, is one of four players averaging at least 100 receiving yards per game. I don't love the matchup with the Rams, but Diggs is so good I don't know how you bench him.
So you're saying there's a chance: It's Michael Crabtree, not Amari Cooper, who leads the Raiders in targets these days and Crabtree is still available in more than 20 percent of ESPN leagues. Crabtree has back-to-back games with a score, has at least eight points in four of his past six and gets a Steelers team that is 27th against the pass the past five weeks. ... You know I like the potential of a shootout game on Monday night and with Eddie Royal banged up, Marquess Wilson's stock is up. ... DeSean Jackson should be back for the Redskins, and they will be throwing in the second half in this one. ... There's a very good chance Dorial Green-Beckham gets another goose egg, so understand the risk, but new coach Mike Mularkey says DGB is going to play more. And against the Saints, that's a good thing.
The price is right: As always, I like all the guys I just mentioned for daily play, but here are some guys I like specifically for DraftKings.com. All prices are from DK.
Filling in for Percy Harvin and costing just $3,500, Robert Woods makes an interesting tournament play against Miami. ... I mentioned him above, but Stevie Johnson is just $3,200 on DK. ... Apologies to my colleague Cris Carter, but all Eric Decker does is catch touchdowns! He's just $5,300 and faces the Jags. ... Another guy I mentioned above, but $6,700 for Jeffery is way too cheap given his floor and volume of targets.
Wide receivers I hate In Week 9
T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, Colts: See Luck, Andrew. The Broncos have given up one, count it, one touchdown pass to an opposing wideout this season. Hilton is banged up, so is his quarterback (or maybe not!) and given the matchup this week and what you saw last week, none of it can give you confidence.
Tavon Austin, Rams: A boom-or-bust fantasy option this season, the Vikings play really good defense (fifth against the pass, sixth in scoring defense the past five weeks), including giving up the fewest 20-yard plays this season.
I know, pretty weak "hate" section this week, but with six teams on a bye and all the injuries, pickings are slim. Can't force it.
Tight ends I love in Week 9
Jordan Reed, Redskins: I wrote about him in last week's column. His 16-game pace is ridiculous. At least five receptions in six straight games dating back to last season, his is the longest active streak among tight ends. Reed has at least 80 yards in three of his past four, this is an offense that features the tight end and despite the matchup, volume should make Reed a top-five play this week.
Heath Miller, Steelers: Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true. And maybe it's not obvious, because Miller is still available in 53 percent of leagues. He should be 100 percent owned this week, at least. In the four games Big Ben has played this season, Miller has 29 targets. And it's Oakland. Always start your tight ends against Oakland. In the five games the Raiders have faced a top-25 tight end, they've allowed seven touchdowns.
So you're saying there's a chance: If Austin Seferian-Jenkins plays, I like him as a TE2 with upside against a Giants team giving up 85.5 receiving yards per game to opposing tight ends, most in the NFL, and they are tied for fourth in terms of most touchdowns allowed to tight ends. ... I'm more of a Benjamin Watson believer than not, especially against a Titans team that is top 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. ... Charles Clay had five catches for 82 yards and a score when he faced his former team in Week 3, and I like his chances again this week with Percy Harvin out and Tyrod Taylor back. ... New Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski does love his tight ends and with Denver's excellent corners, I feel Coby Fleener will get some extra love Sunday.
The price is right: As always, I like all of the players above in daily as well, but here are some players I like at their price point on DraftKings.com.
With at least six targets in six straight games and more than 100 yards or a touchdown in his past six games, Gary Barnidge, aka Barnkowski, has become matchup-proof. But his price hasn't caught up with his production, as he's just the sixth-most-expensive tight end at $4,800. It's worth noting the Bengals have allowed 30 receptions to opposing TEs in their past three games, tied for the most of any team since Week 5. .. Delanie Walker is just $4,200 and is second in tight end receptions the past three weeks, (one more than Rob Gronkowski, behind only Watson). And, of course, you have to like the matchup with Rob Ryan's boys. ... I mentioned him already, but at just $2,700, Miller should be in a ton of lineups come Sunday.
Tight ends I hate in Week 9
Jason Witten, Cowboys: Witten hasn't scored against the Eagles since 2010, but more important, the Eagles have given up just 8.8 yards per reception and just one score to an opposing tight end this season, both of which are second fewest in the NFL.
Antonio Gates, Chargers: I have him in my top 10 because it's such a brutal week, but I'm the lowest on him and would avoid him in daily. He's banged up and the Bears have allowed 32.9 receiving yards per game to opposing tight ends this season, the second fewest in the NFL. Not a top-five play for me this week.
Defenses I love in Week 9
Cincinnati Bengals: At home, short week, hello Johnny Football. Only the Lions have turned the ball over more times than the Browns this season. The Bengals D/ST is still available in 35 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Atlanta Falcons: You had me at Blaine Gabbert.
So you're saying there's a chance: The Titans have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defenses, including 10 or more in each of the past three games. I expect new coach Mike Mularkey to go conservative here, and you know how I feel about Rob Ryan, but in a pinch, the New Orleans Saints could be OK to use.
The price is right: In addition to the above teams, here are some defenses I like specific to their price on DraftKings.com. All prices quoted are from DraftKings.
The Philadelphia Eagles at $2,700 are pretty interesting, especially off a bye and facing Matt Cassel. ... Against turnover-prone Kirk Cousins, the New England Patriots should return value on their $3,300 price tag.
Defense I hate in Week 9
Carolina Panthers: Yes, the Broncos were good against the Packers Sunday night, but that was the first time this season an opposing defense scored in double digits against the Packers. Think it happens again? Me neither. Green Bay has allowed just 21 points to opposing defenses all season, third fewest in the league.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto - has nothing funny for this space this week. He is a paid spokesman for DraftKings.com and the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also might have heard: He has written a book.