After a bizarre Week 8 lent itself to some interesting fantasy headlines, Week 9 is tracking towards more of the same insanity. With six more teams on a bye, fantasy managers are going to be forced into making uncomfortable decisions in this stiff slate.
As always, Wednesday is the opening day of practice reports every week. Let’s diagnose all of the crucial news in Thursday’s Dose.
The Vikings are the most compelling team in football. Not only did Minnesota lose their franchise quarterback to an early-season knee injury in late-August that subsequently birthed a monumental Vikings-Eagles trade that included the Vikings’ 2017 first round pick and 2018 4th-rounder for Sam Bradford, they also lost Adrian Peterson (meniscus) for the season just seven weeks ago. Through all the turmoil, they have now lost their offensive coordinator after a 5-2 start. That is right. Norv Turner resigned from his post early Wednesday morning, thrusting TE coach Pat Shurmur in as the Vikes’ interim OC. It’s almost unprecedented for an offensive coordinator to simply resign — even at the midway point of the season — when his team resides at No. 2 in the current NFC playoff standings. The Vikings are second to last in points (0.223) and yards (4.59) per play, but there are multiple reasons for their lowly output that extend far beyond Norv Turner’s play-calling.
Vikes’ interim OC Pat Shurmur’s offensive philosophy from his time as the Rams’ coordinator sticks out as a stark dichotomy as Norv Turner’s rest-of-season successor. In St. Louis (2009-10), Shurmur’s offenses were predicated on quick passing and simplified decisions for his signal-callers. Because of Minnesota’s woes across their offensive line — they are allowing the 8th highest adjusted sack rate this season — short, timing patterns may keep Bradford upright a bit longer this season. While Norv Turner has been incredibly successful for a long time in the NFL, Shurmur’s short-passing attack may function as a better theoretical fit for Minnesota over Turner’s vertical-based offense. After scoring just 20 total points on offense in Weeks 7-8, the Vikings have a prime “get-right” spot against Detroit at home in Week 9. The Lions are permitting the second-most fantasy points per pass attempt to opposing quarterbacks and are dead last in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA.
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With Alex Smith (concussion) already ruled out and Spencer Ware (concussion) not practicing in advance of Week 9, the Chiefs offense will find itself in an unfamiliar spot against Jacksonville. Nick Foles will get the spot-start as Alex Smith works through the league’s protocol. In 22 attempts in relief of an injured Alex Smith in Week 8, Foles spread the ball around routinely. Five different receivers saw 3+ targets, with Travis Kelce (22.7%) and Jeremy Maclin (18.2%) leading the way in target share. While it is obviously a small sample, per PFF, Nick Foles’ average target traveled 9.9 yards downfield in Week 8 versus the Colts. It’s a marked difference from Alex Smith, whose average depth of target is just 7.5 yards downfield (fourth-lowest in the NFL). Under Foles, Kansas City may push the ball down the field a bit more against Jacksonville as opposed to Smith’s dink-and-dunk passing style.
What’s more, if Spencer Ware does indeed miss Week 9, Charcandrick West will literally be Kansas City’s lone tailback. Jamaal Charles (knee) was placed on I.R. on Tuesday and the team subsequently signed Bishop Sankey off of the Patriots’ practice squad on Wednesday. If Ware can’t go, West will be forced into a massive snap and touch count at home against Jacksonville. He’ll be a strong RB2 on opportunity alone if Ware cannot pass through the league’s protocol before the weekend. Jacksonville is permitting the ninth-fewest fantasy points per touch to opposing running backs, but game-script should not be an issue for Kansas City in Week 9. The Jags lead the league in trail rate through Week 8 (73.5%).
Even though he battled through a bum hamstring in Week 8, T.Y. Hilton was “reluctant to commit” to playing in Week 9 on Wednesday. Hilton left Week 8’s match with the Chiefs early, and while he did return, he was clearly limited in his routes. Fantasy owners will have to track Hilton’s status all week as Indianapolis travels to Green Bay for a gorgeous matchup against the Packers’ injury-depleted secondary. It is worth noting that Donte Moncrief handled an 89% snap-share and led the team in target-share (28%) in his first game back from injury (shoulder). Moncrief’s usage may have been a function of T.Y. Hilton’s health, but it is clear that Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense desperately needs Moncrief as a sustaining-piece. If Hilton misses Week 9, Moncrief will have an eight-11 target floor against a Packers back-half that is conceding the eighth-most fantasy points per target to wideouts (1.90).
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Ben Roethlisberger (knee) is expected to start in Week 9… Steve Smith (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday and has not suited up since Week 5… Tevin Coleman (hamstring), Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) and Doug Martin (hamstring) were all ruled out for Thursday Night Football… Dwayne Allen (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday… Corey Coleman will return to the Browns’ lineup after breaking his hand about seven weeks ago… Terrelle Pryor (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday… Carlos Hyde (shoulder) was limited in 49ers’ practice on Wednesday… Randall Cobb (hamstring), Ty Montgomery (illness) and Jordy Nelson (hand) were all limited on Wednesday… Travis Benjamin (knee), Tyrell Williams (knee) and Hunter Henry (knee) did not practice on Wednesday… Darius Slay (hamstring) returned to practice on Wednesday… Finally, Jerick McKinnon (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.
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