Holy cow, it’s Week 9? Where has the time gone? Regardless, on we march. Outside of the incredible game in Seattle, scoring was generally down across the league last week with six teams on bye. This week has potential to be even tougher with heavy hitters like the Steelers, Patriots, Vikings and Chargers all getting the week off, in addition to the Bears and Browns.

If you tuned in last week, then hopefully you benefitted from Russell Wilson (QB1!), Andy Dalton (QB3), Tyrod Taylor (QB10), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR2!), Adam Thielen (WR6), Chris Thompson (RB19), Alvin Kamara (RB9) or Kyle Rudolph (TE6), while both the Eagles and Ravens defenses finished as top-three performers. I’m going to personally pat myself on the back for calling Thielen’s first touchdown of the season, but it’s ok if you don’t want to. Let’s aim for more success with a microscope on key players for the Week 9 slate.

Starts Record: 78/120 (65%)
Sits Record: 74/102 (72.5%)
Sleeper Record: 25/44 (56.8%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
**Assume .5 PPR scoring for any reference to a player’s season-long ranking or in-week ranking

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Quarterback

Start: Jacoby Brissett @ Houston

In a week without many enticing streaming options, Brissett stands out as the strongest play. Part of why Russell Wilson was such a smash hit in this spot last week was due to Houston’s banged-up defense that’s missing starters JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing in addition to losing playmakers in the offseason. Brissett is coming off his first career game with multiple touchdown passes, and that was on the road against an above-average pass defense. After getting shredded by Wilson, Houston is now allowing the third-most points to fantasy quarterbacks and it figures Brissett will have to throw a ton to keep up with DeShaun Watson’s high-octane attack. Houston boasts a top-five run defense and is subsequently a pass-funnel offense to attack through the air. Houston also lost DE Christian Covington for the season on Sunday, who, per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, is Pro Football Focus’ No. 12-ranked 3-4 defensive end this year. This game very sneakily has the third-highest implied point total of the week (49). EDIT: Watson is sadly out for the season (ACL), and the total on this game has been bet down to 46. I’m still not running away from Brissett given the juicy matchup in a dome, but it’s unreasonable to expect a shootout anymore.

Start: Dak Prescott vs. Kansas City

Owners may be scared after Dak’s touchdown-less dud in Week 8, but there’s no real reason to run away from the per-game QB4 on the season. With sheets of rain coming down throughout the afternoon, the Cowboys smartly put the ball in Zeke Elliott’s belly a season-high 33 times. Dak averages 32.3 pass attempts on the year but only attempted 22 as Dallas controlled game script for much of the affair, and he didn’t tuck and run in the muddy weather. Expect a bounce-back spot against a Kansas City defense allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Kansas City has allowed the sixth-most rushing yards to fantasy quarterbacks, while this game has the highest implied point total of the week. It’s possible Dallas relies on Dak’s arm more in the wake of Zeke’s suspension. This one has game of the week written all over it. EDIT: It is obviously worth pointing out that Zeke Elliott is somehow playing another week of football, which nullifies my sentence about Dallas relying more on Dak’s arm. Regardless, Dak is a fantastic play in season-long and DFS, and Zeke is obviously a must-start while you can play him.

Other Recommended Starts:

-Alex Smith @ Dallas: Chatter around Smith has cooled down, but he’s still the per-game QB5 on the season and was a dropped touchdown away from a much stronger week against Denver’s vaunted secondary. We want pieces of this Dallas/Kansas City game which has the highest implied point total of the week, and Dallas is allowing 1.9 points above quarterbacks’ per-game average (I may not have explained that well, but click the link for a handy little chart as this concept will be referenced throughout).
-Tyrod Taylor @ New York Jets: It’s never ideal starting Tyrod on the road given his massive home/road splits, but per Evan Silva, the Jets have allowed top-12 passers in 6-of-8 games and have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks. Tyrod has been a top-10 quarterback in consecutive weeks and his matchup is aided by the expected absences of impressive corner Mo Claiborne (foot) and difference-making lineman Muhammed Wilkerson (shoulder, foot). Maybe not yet this week, but the presence of Kelvin Benjamin should elevate Tyrod’s ceiling given his touchdown-scoring prowess. Tyrod is underpriced in DFS every week he has a good matchup.

Sit: Andy Dalton @ Jacksonville

Dalton came through as a recommended start last week, albeit in a very down week for quarterback scoring as it only took him 18.72 points to reach QB3 status. Now he has to go on the road to Jacksonville which hasn’t allowed a passer to hit 15 fantasy points even once this season. Jacksonville’s pass defense is this year’s version of the Broncos in that we pretty much need to bench every quarterback that plays them until further notice. This game has a low implied point total of 42 and I expect Dalton to look somewhat lost if the Jags’ perimeter receivers are able to contain AJ Green. Cincinnati’s offensive line has allowed the third-highest sack percentage in the league (which is bad), while Jacksonville’s defense has far and away the highest defensive sack percentage in the league (which is good). They’re too obvious to write as a start below, but Jacksonville is the best defensive play on the board this week.

Sit: Matt Ryan @ Carolina

Ryan checks in as merely the per-game QB20 on the year having underwhelmed in several plum matchups. He’s on the road against a Carolina defense allowing the fourth-fewest points to quarterbacks, as well as 4.1 points below a quarterback’s average. This game has a low-ish implied point total of 43.5. Ryan is pretty much a bench/streaming option until further notice, although I still am expecting his touchdown percentage to spike back to his career average at some point. It doesn’t help that Devonta Freeman is nursing a shoulder injury and James Bradberry will attempt to shadow Julio Jones.

Other Recommended Sits:

-Kirk Cousins @ Seattle: I understand not everyone has the luxury of sitting Cousins, but he’s on the road at Seattle which is not a place to search for fantasy points despite DeShaun Watson’s performance last week. Cousins lost four offensive linemen to injury last week in addition to Jordan Reed and has no run game to speak of. He’s merely a high-end QB2 this week.
-Eli Manning vs. Los Angeles Rams: Despite having a great name, Eli is in bench purgatory until further notice considering the putrid state of his receiving corps, offensive line and running game. The Rams are coming off a bye and have allowed the ninth-fewest points to quarterbacks. You can do better.
-Marcus Mariota vs. Baltimore: Mariota is only on the fringe of being a QB1 as the per-game QB14 this year and faces a Baltimore defense that’s stifled opposing passing games and is coming off ten days of rest. Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, Baltimore allows the fewest completions per game, while Mariota is 28th in completions per game. His stock takes a hit if Delanie Walker (ankle) can’t play. 

Sleepers/Streamers:

-Jared Goff @ New York Giants: Goff has come through in good matchups this year and been avoidable in bad ones. New York qualifies as a good matchup having allowed the seventh-most points to opposing quarterbacks and his matchup gets a boost with stud corner Janoris Jenkins out (suspension). Per Rich Hribar, Los Angeles leads the league in red zone drives per game (4.4). 

Wide Receiver

Start: Tyreek Hill @ Dallas

Similar to Dak above, it’s not smart to let Hill’s down performance against Denver move him out of your starting lineup. Hill’s playing style is boom/bust in nature, but he’s shown an elite ceiling this year by scoring from all over the field. In fact, if you look at his game log, he’s had a “boom” week following up every single one of his “bust” weeks. Interestingly, Rotoworld’s Evan Silva pointed out weeks ago that Hill has been excellent on the road while awful at home this season. Though he acknowledged it may just be small sample size noise, that trend has held true in every contest this season. On the year, Hill averages a putrid 4/37.5/0 line at home but a sterling 5.5/100.75/.75 line on the road. Dallas has a bottom-five pass defense and this game has the highest implied point total of the week.

Start: Marvin Jones Jr. @ Green Bay

Sneakily the per-game WR6 over the last four weeks, Jones is averaging an elite 11 targets per game over his last three. Granted, some of that came in a negative game script shootout against New Orleans in which Golden Tate suffered an injury, but it’s clear Stafford is comfortable targeting Jones. Since Week 4 his yardage totals have trended 42>54>96>128 despite three of the four coming in tough matchups. Green Bay is most certainly not a tough matchup. He’s at the very least a WR3 with room for much more.

Other Recommended Starts:

-Ted Ginn vs. Tampa Bay: While game script doesn’t necessarily project to be pass-heavy for the Saints, no team has allowed wide receivers to score above their average more than Tampa Bay. Ginn is quietly the per-game WR8 over the last four weeks, while Tampa Bay will likely be without top corner Brent Grimes (shoulder). Tampa has arguably the worst pass rush in football and this game has the second-highest implied point total of the week (50). 

Sit: Alshon Jeffery vs. Denver

Alshon has been an incredibly matchup-dependent fantasy commodity this year. Already shut down by Josh Norman, Janoris Jenkins and Patrick Peterson, Alshon checks in as merely the WR31 in per-game production. Per Rich Hribar, Denver allows the fewest yards per game to receivers in the league. This game has a low implied point total and the Eagles are favored by just over a touchdown, so it’s not like Alshon is projected to have favorable game script. Just a WR3 on the year, I’m downgrading Jeffery to a WR4 for his date with Aqib Talib and the No Fly Zone.

Sit: Pierre Garcon vs. Arizona

Similar to Alshon above, this is strictly due to Garcon’s projected cornerback matchup. Now just the WR42 on the season, Garcon was held to four catches and 36 yards the last time he tangled with Patrick Peterson. Not only is Peterson a legitimate DPOY candidate, but he’s scarily started trailing receivers into the slot this year. Both the floor and ceiling of this offense is lowered by Beathard’s presence and it’s extremely unlikely Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to start this week. Garcon is barely a PPR WR4 this week even before you take his neck injury into account. Edit: Garcon has surprisingly been ruled out for the season, but the same sit recommendation goes for all Niners receivers. Maybe Trent Taylor or Marquise Goodwin will become interesting after the team’s bye, but best to wait and see the target distribution first.

Other Recommended Sits:

-Marqise Lee vs. Cincinnati: This game is tied for the lowest implied point total of the week and Lee doesn’t project to have a favorable game script. Cincinnati has allowed the fifth-fewest points to receivers.
-Rishard Matthews vs. Baltimore: Corey Davis’ projected return muddies Matthews’ target outlook, while Baltimore has been incredibly stingy to receivers. Matthews may get a slight target bump if Delanie sits, but this doesn’t project as a friendly game for fantasy purposes. 

Sleepers/Streamers:

-TJ Jones @ Green Bay: It’s a thin week for streamers so I’m going deep here. Jones has seen 17 targets over the last two games and some of his routes are of the high-percentage slot variety. Green Bay has been gashed in the slot all season long no matter who they’re trotting out there and Stafford threw for over 300 yards in both meetings with the Packers last year. This is assuming Kenny Golladay (hamstring) continues to be inactive. 

Running Back

Start: Lamar Miller vs. Indianapolis

Miller gets bumped up to RB1 territory this week against an Indianapolis defense that’s hemorrhaging points to the running back position. His touch floor is super safe coming off a season-high 24 touches and he should face favorable game script as a 12.5-point favorite at home. Miller offers a super safe floor having hit 9.5 points in every game but one this year, and the surrounding circumstances point to this week being a ceiling game. He should be a pretty chalky DFS play this week but still acts as a decent pivot off Watson, who is sure to have insanely high ownership. EDIT: With Watson out, it will be easier for defenses to focus on stopping the running game and forcing Tom Savage to beat them with his arm. I’m certainly not running away from Miller – he’s still a home favorite with a secure touch floor and safe goal line role – but we obviously have to check expectations and expect a much lower ceiling.

Start: Alvin Kamara vs. Tampa Bay

Incredibly, Kamara is the per-game RB16 on the season despite Adrian Peterson only being gone for three games. He’s averaging 12.7 touches per game in AP’s absence, but most notably out-touched Mark Ingram after Ingram’s first fumble last week. Ingram went on to lose another fumble late in the game, and we’ve seen Sean Payton put him in the doghouse for fumbling as recently as last season. Even if the fumbles don’t amount to extra touches for Kamara, he’s a secure RB2 playing at home as a seven-point favorite against a Tampa defense that’s allowed the 11th-most points to running backs. Again, this game has the second-highest implied point total on the slate.

Other Recommended Starts:

-Christian McCaffrey vs. Atlanta: Atlanta is in the bottom-six in receptions and receiving yards allowed to running backs and McCaffrey leads the Panthers in target share. His target outlook is boosted by the loss of Kelvin Benjamin. Per Evan Silva, McCaffrey also leads the Panthers in red zone targets. 

Sit: Jay Ajayi vs. Denver

This one is partially based on gut feeling, as I never feel comfortable starting a player his first week in a new offense. Before we get too excited about Ajayi, it’s important to remember this backfield was a three-way timeshare quagmire prior to the trade, so it doesn’t feel reasonable to project Ajayi for 18+ touches right away. Blount has been solid this season, so it’s possible he retains a short-yardage role, and Ajayi’s floor is hurt by his likely lack of receiving usage. That’s all before we remember no defense has been stauncher against running backs than Denver this year. While this could blow up in my face given his skillset, I’m fading Ajayi until after Philly’s bye week.

Sit: CJ Anderson @ Philadelphia

On the other side of the ball sits CJ Anderson, whose fantasy stock is currently plummeting. Anderson hasn’t received at least 16 carries or scored double-digit fantasy points since Week 4, which is not coincidentally when Devontae Booker returned from his offseason wrist injury. Since Booker’s return, Anderson’s descending snap rates are 69% (nice)>47%>59%>48% and as we all know, it’s impossible to score fantasy points when you’re not on the field. Philadelphia has allowed the fifth-fewest points to running backs and Anderson’s outlook is hurt as a 7.5-point road underdog in a projected low-scoring game. He doesn’t catch many passes, which hurts his floor in games with projected negative game script such as this one.

Other Recommended Sits:

-Devonta Freeman @ Carolina: Never comfortable to recommend sitting a player with his ceiling, but Freeman is a bit banged up right now with a shoulder injury, his receiving work is down and he’s only averaging 11 carries per game since the team’s bye. Carolina is as stingy as run defenses come and he’s playing on the road as a slight underdog. I understand you’re likely not sitting him but keep your expectations to mid RB2 this week at best. 

Sleepers/Streamers:

-Devonate Booker @ Philadelphia: Booker is a potentially sneaky play and makes sense in line with the Anderson sit recommendation. His snaps are trending up, he poached a touchdown last week and just saw a season-high six carries. Most importantly, he seems to have taken over as the team’s pass-catching back having caught at least three passes in each of the last three games. Philly has quietly allowed the most receptions to running backs in addition to being tied for allowing a league-high four receiving touchdowns to running backs. 

Tight End

Start: Jared Cook @ Miami

Quietly having a solid season, Cook is on the streaming radar in a pretty good matchup against a Miami defense that’s allowed the eighth-most points to tight ends. Cook only has one score on the year, but he had another taken away against Kansas City and ranks ninth among tight ends in per-game yardage. Also ranking top-15 in targets and receptions per-game at the position, Cook is a fringe starter who is worth using in good matchups, which he has this week. I think Oakland’s offense is generally in an underrated spot this week as Miami continues to crumble after questionably trading Jay Ajayi for a fourth-round pick.

Start: Vernon Davis @ Seattle

Per Rotoworld’s Ray Summerlin, Davis has averaged 11.1 PPR points per game as a Redskin when Jordan Reed sits. For reference, that would be a top-ten number this year. Despite Reed only missing one full game this year, Davis super sneakily ranks 13th among tight ends in per-game yardage, in part due to his big-play ability. While the matchup doesn’t sound ideal, Seattle is actually just average at stopping tight ends and has given up usable lines to Jack Doyle, Tyler Higbee and Evan Engram in recent weeks. Washington will likely have to throw a ton, and Davis dropped a sterling 5/58/1 in Reed’s absence earlier this year.

Other Recommended Starts:

-Jimmy Graham vs. Washington: Graham has continued trending up and is starting to get more red zone usage, a useful deodorant considering his low yardage totals. Washington is a defense to target for tight ends as their stingy cornerbacks funnel targets to the interior. We want to continue to bet on Danger Russ at home and Graham has the best matchup of his receivers. 

Sit: Austin Hooper @ Carolina

Hooper surprised with a solid 4/47/1 line last week, but he’s still averaging just 2.6 targets per game when Mohammed Sanu plays the entire game. Carolina has given up the 10th-fewest points to tight ends and Hooper has a basement-low floor having scored fewer than two points on three separate occasions this year.

Sit: George Kittle vs. Arizona

Even in a rough week for tight ends, Kittle is not a recommended play in a tough matchup. Kittle has run considerably fewer routes over the last two weeks and has started losing some snaps to Cole Hikutini, whoever that is. Until further notice, this is a stay-away offense for fantasy purposes. This game has the lowest implied point total of the week.

Other Recommended Sits:

-Eric Ebron @ Green Bay: Doooooon’t you go chasing Ebron’s big play from last week as Green Bay plays stingy tight end defense and he’s freaking Eric Ebron. 

Sleepers/Streamers:

-Tyler Higbee @ New York Giants: Higbee doesn’t run a ton of routes, but I’d be remiss not to mention the tight end playing against the Giants. He’s a deep streamer only. 
-Ryan Griffin vs. Indianapolis: Also a deep streamer, the biggest thing working against Griffin is Houston putting the brakes on the passing game if they’re able to jump out to a big lead. Still, Griffin plays a ton of snaps, Watson is balling and Indy struggles to cover tight ends, so you can do worse to chase a touchdown. EDIT: Watson is sadly out, but I’m not fading Griffin too much as it’s possible Tom Savage checks down a ton and the matchup is still good. Texans tight ends averaged 5.3 receptions per game in Savage’s starts last year. For reference, Zach Ertz averages 5.4 receptions per game, third among tight ends this year.

Defense

Start: Los Angeles Rams @ New York Giants

The Rams are sneakily the per-game Defense3 on the season and the Giants offensive line is one we want to attack. Though they’re not at home, they are favored, and this game has a low implied point total of 42. Los Angeles ranks top-five in sacks and interceptions per-game so there is a solid combination of floor and ceiling here.

Start: Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco

Arizona is fresh off its bye, CJ Beathard has more than underwhelmed, and this game has the lowest implied point total of the week. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald and the defenses, try to avoid this game at all costs if you can.

Other Recommended Starts:

-Detroit Lions @ Green Bay: Maybe I’m playing with fire by suggesting all these road teams as starts, but all are favored for a reason. Hundley is a turnover and sack target until further notice, and this is another game with a low implied total (42.5).
-Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis: The tweet below is a few weeks old so you can ignore the teams it references, but the point still stands. Houston is a 12.5-point home favorite this week. 

Sit: Kansas City @ Dallas

On the road in the highest implied point total game isn’t a great start, and that’s before we remember Kansas City is just a fringe starter this year. I’m not reading too much into last week’s performance considering it was at home against Trevor Siemian. Dallas has allowed the fifth-fewest points to defenses by limiting sacks and turnovers while being super efficient in the red zone. EDIT: Zeke is playing, so this matchup just got even tougher for Kansas City. You do the math.

Sleepers/Streamers:

-San Francisco vs. Arizona: I mean, it’s Drew Stanton. Let’s not overthink this one.
-Tennessee vs. Baltimore: A home favorite against either Joe Flacco or Ryan Mallett, this is a decent streaming spot for those in a pinch. This defense is averaging 8.3 points over its last three games and does average one interception per game. 

This piece has been updated to reflect the unfortunate injuries to DeShaun Watson (ACL) and Pierre Garcon (neck). This piece has also been updated to reflect Zeke Elliott now playing in Week 9. 

Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, Yahoo.com, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, profootballfocus.com and pro-football-reference.com

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