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Fantasy Spin: Start Foles Vs. The Texans

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Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting "SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday" every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.

Nick Foles has had some turnovers this year, but he threw for over 400 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Cardinals last week. Where should we stand on him as a fantasy option, especially against a Texans defense that's 28th vs. the pass?

Here's my take: for fantasy purposes, starting Foles remains a prudent decision – against the Cardinals last Sunday, he went 36 of 62 for 411 yards with a pair of touchdowns, both to Jeremy Maclin, and the 54-yard strike may have been the best throw of Foles' career. But there's no doubt that he's been more inaccurate on throws to every level than this offense ideally would have. And it's unlikely that Chip Kelly actively drew up a game plan that had Foles dropping back 62 times. I think Kelly will want more balance this week to protect Foles a little bit.

I'd expect to see a few quick throws to get him in rhythm and keep J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney at bay, especially since the Eagles also need to get Jason Kelce back into the swing of things. One thing I'd like to see is more activity for the backs in the passing game, a big part of the Eagles' offense last year that's been missing a little bit this season. To me, Foles is a fantasy starter, but I really would like to see him put together a wire-to-wire comfortable performance. Against this secondary, he should have the chance at doing that.

Any concern with those who want to start Arian Foster this week? The Eagles have allowed only one running back to gain 100 yards rushing this season.

First thing's first: the short answer is no. Foster has been getting it done so consistently this year, that he looks as good now as he's ever looked in his career. I'll admit that weeks ago I advised trading him after his hot start, and my concerns were highlighted when Foster had some injury problems early in the year. But he's clearly the cog that keeps the wheel turning here, and he's been downright dominant statistically. And while I view the Eagles as a generally difficult matchup for opposing backs, especially since Mychal Kendricks is getting healthier, the reason I'm buying into Foster as a fantasy option lies in his Week 4 game against the Bills.

In Foster's first game back from hamstring problems, he carried only eight times for six yards. But to pick up his game overall, he also added seven catches and 55 yards receiving, giving him 13.1 fantasy points in a PPR league. So if the Eagles are tougher on the ground, as I imagine they would be, Foster is such a touch vacuum that I'm not sure it's going to hold him back for fantasy. He routinely plays over 80 percent of the Texans' offensive snaps, with only Alfred Blue occasionally coming in to give him a breather. The best thing about having Foster – when he's healthy – is that he never comes off the field, and he's one of only three main targets in the Texans' offense, to go with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

It's the midway point in the NFL season! Who are your fantasy award winners to this point?

FANTASY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – As the only legitimate weapon the Panthers have on the perimeter, Benjamin has seen enough volume to shake the inconsistencies and struggles that rookie wideouts typically have. He's had some down moments, but all in all he's come through.

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK PICK: Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Seriously, how awesome has Bradshaw been? In one of the NFL's more surprisingly effective running back committees, Bradshaw has scored eight touchdowns in as many games, including six receiving touchdowns. He's been a top-five PPR running back and would win this award even if he didn't play another game the rest of the year.

WAIVER WIRE GEM: Ronnie Hillman, Broncos – For the second consecutive year, a Broncos back who had been in the doghouse ended up leading their run game. An injury to Montee Ball opened the door for Hillman to take the fruitful running back job in a Peyton Manning offense, and Hillman proceeded to slam that door in Ball's face.

BIGGEST BUST: I'm actually going to have a little discussion with myself about this one. It's actually been a somewhat bad year for early picks in general – injuries have hurt a ton of guys who went in the first round in typical drafts (Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Montee Ball, Jimmy Graham) and others have had bouts of struggles combined with strong games (Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy). And in my opinion, it'd be too easy to just give the award to someone like Zac Stacy, who I said months ago was overdrafted, and I stick by that assessment entirely.

So I'm going to use this category to just rant against something I hate – taking defenses anywhere before the last two or three rounds of a draft. The Seattle Seahawks defense was typically an eighth-round pick, on average, in 12-team drafts. That's ridiculous. And for Seattle to come through, that defense has to be demonstrably better on a consistent basis than waiver defenses like Buffalo or even Philly. That has not been the case: in most scoring systems, Seattle has been a bottom-10 fantasy defense. Take my advice and NEVER draft a defense early again, if you did so this year. Even in leagues in which defenses score a lot of points, they're just way too random.

FANTASY MVP: I'm going to hand out a tie here ... and with full disclosure I'm going to disqualify Peyton Manning because he's really the MVP since he makes Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Ronnie Hillman the fantasy studs they are.

It's so, so hard to find consistency in fantasy these days, and that's why this award has to go to DeMarco Murray and Antonio Brown. Murray, obviously, is on a record-breaking pace, as he's already over 1,000 yards rushing and has topped 131 yards from scrimmage in every game. He's the Cowboys' main back in every imaginable situation, and that security means a lot (see: Foster, Arian). As for Brown, he has now had 24 consecutive games with at least five catches and 50 yards receiving. He has been matchup proof, and now he's scoring more touchdowns to boot, with seven this year already after eight all of last season. You can expect at least 15 fantasy points a week from these two guys, which is such a rare thing in this day and age of specialized players.

FantasyGuru.com's Week 9 Flex Rankings: 31-60
Rank Player Rank Player
31 WR Mohamed Sanu, Bengals 46 WR Eric Decker, Jets
32 WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans 47 TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
33 RB Justin Forsett, Ravens 48 RB Jeremy Hill, Bengals
34 WR Torrey Smith, Ravens 49 TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
35 WR Michael Floyd, Cardinals 50 RB Darren Sproles, Eagles
36 RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins 51 WR Rueben Randle, Giants
37 WR Andrew Hawkins, Browns 52 TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
38 RB Ben Tate, Browns 53 RB Frank Gore, 49ers
39 WR Doug Baldwin, Seahawks 54 TE Larry Donnell, Giants
40 WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers 55 WR Julian Edelman, Patriots
41 WR Allen Robinson, Jaguars 56 WR Brandon LaFell, Patriots
42 WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings 57 RB Chris Ivory, Jets
43 WR Pierre Garcon, Washington 58 RB Shane Vereen, Patriots
44 WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 59 WR Greg Jennings, Vikings
45 RB Branden Oliver, Chargers 60 RB Darren McFadden, Raiders


Who are the key buy low/sell high players of the week?

BUY LOW ON …

Matthew Stafford, Lions – Normally, I hate making a trade for a quarterback unless I think he's a true difference maker, but I wonder if Stafford can be had for a song now given his shaky play and the fact that he's on a bye. Stafford's maintained his fantasy performance the last couple of weeks with some smoke-and-mirrors action, using big plays and late fourth-quarter rallies to get his numbers up to respectability. I don't think Stafford is a consistent player, and if he didn't have Golden Tate, he'd look downright bad right now, something that his fantasy owners have noticed without a shadow of a doubt.

But he's managed to keep both the Lions and his fantasy numbers afloat without Calvin Johnson for weeks, and we're fully expecting Stafford to get Megatron back after the Lions' Week 9 bye. The opportunity here is to use that bye to your advantage because with Tate rolling, Theo Riddick emerging, Johnson coming back and the potential of Eric Ebron providing some cushion in the middle of the field, Stafford could be primed to put up the high-end fantasy numbers we're used to seeing in the second half of the season. He has the solid schedule do to it, too.

SELL HIGH ON ...

Josh Gordon, Browns – Wait ... how exactly do you sell high on a player who hasn't played yet? Hear me out. Gordon is nearing his return – he's eligible to play in Week 12 against the Falcons, after which his 10-game suspension will be over. And if you're still holding onto him and need some wins in the upcoming weeks to get into the playoff hunt, it may be the ideal time to move him. Remember, it's not like Gordon's going to jump onto the scene and immediately produce the way he did last year, when he was the No. 1 overall fantasy receiver.

This is a run-first team (although it's lost effectiveness since the injury to center Alex Mack), and it's possible that there's a quarterback controversy that emerges in the next couple of weeks. Gordon is a high-risk, high-reward player for you right now if you're on the cusp of the playoff hunt – if you can stay afloat, he may pay off big time come Week 12. But if you need wins immediately, the risk of holding him these next few weeks is obvious.

Who were the most added and dropped fantasy players of the week?

MOST ADDED

WR Brandon LaFell, Patriots (added in over 23,700 NFL.com leagues) – LaFell's been a target hound on the perimeter for the resurgent Tom Brady, who has started to come alive after a year and a month of fringe fantasy relevance. Thanks to the reemergence of Rob Gronkowski as an elite threat, the entire Patriots passing game has opened up. LaFell now has a ridiculous 19 receptions on 22 targets over his last three games (86.4 percent conversion rate), so he's absolutely clicking with Brady.

MOST DROPPED

RB Antone Smith, Falcons (dropped in over 11,500 NFL.com leagues) – Well, this was easy to see coming. As it turns out, a running back who touches the ball around five times a game isn't a guarantee to score a 40-yard touchdown every week. The Falcons would be wise to get rookie back Devonta Freeman more touches going forward.

INJURIES TO WATCH

Quarterbacks

Tony Romo, Cowboys – Romo (back) looks questionable for this weekend and if he can't go, Brandon Weeden would start against the Cardinals.

Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Barring a setback, RGIII (ankle) will start over last week's hero, Colt McCoy.

Running Backs

Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Bernard (hip) has missed quite a bit of practice time this week. If he doesn't go, it could be a breakout game for Jeremy Hill against the Jaguars.

Rashad Jennings, Giants – In somewhat of a surprise, Jennings (knee) hasn't been practicing this week, so it looks like it'll be another week of Andre Williams on Monday night against the Colts.

Justin Forsett, Ravens – Forsett (ankle) has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play against Pittsburgh. If he doesn't go, it's Lorenzo Taliaferro time.

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos – Hillman (shoulder) has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play.

Donald Brown, Chargers – Brown (concussion) is slated to return this week, which could cut into Branden Oliver's snaps, although Ryan Mathews (knee) isn't ready yet.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers – Martin (ankle) has missed practice all week, and it looks like he won't be able to go this week. Bobby Rainey should start, but the guy to pick up off your waiver wire if you haven't already is rookie Charles Sims, who is returning from short-term IR.

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green, Bengals – There's no guarantee Green (toe) can play this week against the Jags, but he's getting closer. Check his status all weekend.

Brian Quick, Rams – The Rams' breakout star, Quick is now on IR with a shoulder injury.

Reggie Wayne, Colts – Wayne (elbow) has been limited in practice this week. It could be another big game for rookie Donte Moncrief if he doesn't play.

Tight Ends

Owen Daniels, Ravens – Just a week after a knee procedure, Daniels has returned to practice this week but probably is going to have to sit out another game.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – Cameron (concussion) hasn't yet been cleared to play and probably won't play against the Bucs this week.

START 'EM

QB: Alex Smith, Chiefs – The Chiefs have one of the worst receiving corps in football, but Smith can run it, and the Jets secondary has struggled as well.

RB: Jeremy Hill, Bengals – This is an ideal week for Hill to break out, with a good matchup against the Jags even if Gio Bernard can play with his hip injury.

WR: Michael Floyd, Cardinals – I recommended starting Floyd against the Eagles last week, and he laid a complete goose egg, dropping a potential touchdown and getting banged up early in the game. However, I'm getting right back in the saddle against Dallas this week.

TE: Clay Harbor, Jaguars – The former Eagle is still starting in Jacksonville, and he's got a golden matchup against the Bengals' banged-up linebackers.

SIT 'EM

QB: Michael Vick, Jets – I'm not a huge fan of the turnover-prone Vick going against the Chiefs if your league punishes for turnovers.

RB: Jonas Gray, Patriots – The Patriots' running back du jour off the Waiver Wire, Gray had a big game last week, but I'm not anticipating a lot of volume against Denver, which has allowed more receiving yards than rushing yards to running backs over the last five weeks.

WR: Andre Holmes, Raiders – He's been hot lately, but it doesn't get much tougher for his rookie quarterback Derek Carr than going to Seattle.

TE: Tim Wright, Patriots – Wright had a big game in the box scores last week, but he wasn't even relevant until the game was out of reach. I'd fade him against the Broncos' defense.

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