Another week is nearly in the books and it was crazy as ever. Tonight Week 9 wraps up as Justin Fields and the Bears head to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. We’ll look at the fantasy relevant players from tonight’s matchup in a minute, first it’s time to look at what else we learned from Week 9. And, boy, it was a wild one.
There is Nothing Like the NFL
We saw a number of playoff contenders roll into matchups both at home and on the road with favored by double-digits. Many of them did not fare well. The Cowboys spotted the Broncos 30 points before coming back a bit in the fourth quarter to make the game seem respectable. The Saints got crushed by the Falcons early, battle back to take the lead and lost on a last-second field goal. The Buffalo Bills left their offense in New York, scoring a measly six points in a loss to the Jaguars. And the Bengals, once the team sitting atop the AFC, lost their second straight in crushing fashion as the Browns hung 41 points on them in a blowout win in front of the Bengals’ faithful. As we round the mid-point and head toward the second half of the NFL Season, Sunday’s slate was a reminder that nothing is certain.
James Conner is on a Tear
Conner once looked to be the heir to Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh and a rock-solid fantasy performer. A few injury-marred years reduced that profile and led the Steelers to let him walk this off-season. Conner landed in Arizona where he figured to be part of a committee behind Kyler Murray. While that’s been true, he’s also been better than advertised. Through nine games Conner has 10 rushing TDs and a receiving touchdown. Sunday in San Francisco he exploded for three touchdowns. It was his fourth game of the season with two or more touchdowns. While he’s not consistently putting up a lot of yards, he’s scoring and that’s made him an appealing option in an increasingly unstable running back field for fantasy.
The Sam Darnold Experiment is Over
Going to Carolina was supposed to be the chance to start over for Darnold, once the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. For three weeks, it seemed like that would happen. Darnold looked solid and the team went 3-0. He hasn’t been good since. For a while it seemed possible to blame the absence of star running back Christian McCaffrey. But CMC was back on Sunday and Darnold still managed to throw for less than 200 yards, threw three interceptions and the Panthers lost by double-digits at home to fall to 4-5 on the season, 1-5 in their last six games. Darnold is under contract through next season but it seems likely the team will make a move to find a replacement this off-season.
Now, on to tonight’s game.
Monday Night Preview
The Bears are 3-5, coming off a third straight loss. The Steelers, meanwhile, started the season 1-3 but have won three straight, including a hard-fought victory over the Cleveland Browns last week. At 4-3, the Steelers are in prime position to make a run toward the post-season.
So, what to expect tonight from teams moving in opposite directions? Both have strong defenses and talented but flawed offenses. I suspect a lower scoring affair, which means anything can happen. As if Sunday’s outcomes didn’t suggest that already. For fantasy, the Steelers offer the best options in receiver Diontae Johnson and running back Najee Harris. Tight end Pat Freiermuth isn’t a terrible option, either.
For the Bears, Justin Fields is coming off his best game of the season but I’m still not sold on him and the passing game. With David Montgomery getting activated, the running game split between him and Khalil Herbert is uncertain, too. Given that, I’m not confident starting any Bears’ player, though I guess Herbert or Montgomery could have a decent game.
I expect the Steelers to win their fourth straight.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.