The Raiders fired Josh McDaniels late Tuesday evening, and the only thing surprising about it was the timing. McDaniels second stint as a head coach went just about as poorly as his first, and that probably closes the book on him as an NFL head coaching candidate. One can hope, at least.
The Raiders offense – ostensibly McDaniels' expertise as a coach – has been a disaster this season, with the team having just eight touchdowns to 13 interceptions in the passing game, and with McDaniels' hand-picked QB Jimmy Garoppolo missing multiple easy touchdown throws, most notably Monday against the Lions.
McDaniels isn't the only change coming to Vegas. General manager David Ziegler was fired along with McDaniels, and was reportedly nowhere to be found when teams tried to inquire about trade opportunities Tuesday before the deadline. The Raiders are, yet again, cleaning house.
The more immediate change is that the Raiders are going to turn to rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell to start in Week 9 and likely beyond. And, as bad as Garoppolo has been, I will say, I hesitate to say O'Connell can't be worse; he impressed in the preseason as a fourth-round pick but had no touchdowns and 6.1 yards per attempt in his only start earlier in the season. He probably can't be worse than Garoppolo was in Week 8, but I hesitate to say this is going to be any kind of upgrade for the Raiders offense.
I still view Josh Jacobs as a must-start Fantasy option, and I probably feel the same way about Davante Adams (and Jakobi Meyers to a lesser extent), but there's a chance, and perhaps a pretty good one, that O'Connell is just unplayably bad, though he does at least get a nice soft landing spot against the Giants this week. Expectations are surely much lower for this Raiders offense than they were coming into the season, at the very least, as this franchise just can't seem to do much of anything right.
The other news from Wednesday morning you need to know about is that the Falcons are moving forward with Taylor Heinicke as the starter for Week 9 against the Vikings, with Desmond Ridder being benched. It's not clear whether this is a true benching, or if Ridder is dealing with some kind of injury, but either way, I don't expect this to change much for the Falcons. Heinicke is a decent backup who is probably overexposed as a starter, which is probably where I land on Ridder at this point, as well. Both can run a little bit, and we probably won't see much of a change in how the Falcons offense operates regardless of which one is in at QB.
Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the rest of today's FFT Newsletter, which is all about preparing for Week 9. I've got Heath Cummings' position previews ready to go for you, plus my favorite buy-low and sell-high candidates if you're looking to make a trade to bolster your roster for the stretch run. Later tonight, we'll have Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em calls, and tomorrow I'll have my previews for every Week 8 game to make sure you're ready for the first lineup lock of the week.
For now, let's get our first look at what to expect for Week 9:
My Week 9 Rankings:| | |
As always, before you make any trades,. Here are some buys and sells to help get the conversation started:
Three to buy-low
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
I've written about Pollard a lot this week, and here's a lot more. My conclusion is mostly that I expect him to be a very, very good Fantasy option moving forward because I still believe he's a plus runner in a very good situation, and ultimately, that's mostly what matters. But I did want to get in the weeds for a moment on Pollard because his situation brings up something that frustrates me about the state of modern NFL stats. If you're aware of the NFL NextGenStats program, it's all based on a system of real-time location and speed tracking for every player on every snap on the field. The problem is, that the data is hopelessly limited for public consumption.
It would be very easy to answer the question, "Has Tony Pollard lost a step?" if the full data were made available, but all we have access to is a list of the 20 fastest ball carriers in any given week, which, frankly, isn't very useful. However, we can do some parsing of the available data and come to some conclusions. Last season, Pollard hit a max speed of 21.1 mph on his fastest run, and also had runs of 20.5, 20.4, and 20.4 mph throughout the season; this year, his fastest speed has been 20 mph. Now, that 20 mph came on a play after he had broken a tackle, while the 21.1 came on a toss out of the backfield where he broke up the field untouched, so the situations aren't perfectly comparable. But based on that limited data, I think it's reasonable to say he's lost a step so far.
But that still brings me back to a point I often try to emphasize: Talent is never static. That's one limitation of the eye test: It assumes that how a player looks right now is how they will look moving forward. Pollard probably isn't as explosive as he was last year, but that doesn't mean he won't rediscover that form. And even if he doesn't – even if he's just a replacement-level running back now – this is still a great situation overall that has been held back by some weird game scripts. He is still top 12 in both carries and targets among RBs, with the second-most Green Zone touches in the league. I'm just going to buy that player, take my 15 PPG floor and hope he gets back to breaking a big player or two every week to push the upside to 20 PPG.
Olave and Derek Carr are leaving an awful lot of Fantasy points on the field right now, and some of it is Olave's fault: He had a sure-fire 39-yard touchdown bounce off his facemask in Week 8, in one of the more embarrassing plays of the season by a wide receiver. It was bad, though, to be fair, it was also the only drop Olave has been credited with this season. Which is to say, I think this is mostly a Derek Carr problem, and it's not a new one; Davante Adams posted his worst catch rate since 2015 last season playing with Carr. However, Olave is still showing the skills that made him such an intriguing player as a rookie, earning targets at a very high rate despite mostly running deeper, downfield routes, and he's showing some after-the-catch skills, too, ranking 23rd in YAC/reception among 71 players with an average depth of target of at least 10 yards on at least 20 targets. The reasons Olave has been disappointing are two-fold; the connection has been bad on deep passes and in the end zone. Olave has caught just one of seven targets thrown into the end zone, and just nine of 30 targets of more than 15 air yards; the league average catch rate in those situations is 35% and 46%. Any kind of regression on either or both is going to see his production take a big jump. I'm betting on it.
Higgins is a great player. He's in a great offense. He has a great quarterback. All of those things are, I think, indisputably true, even if Week 8 might have been the first time all three of them were actually true at the same time this season. Joe Burrow has spent most of the season playing through a calf injury, while Higgins has spent half of it playing through injured ribs, and both situations look like they've improved a lot since the Week 7 bye, especially Burrow's injury. He looked like himself last week, and that led to Higgins' second-best game of the season. It still wasn't a great game, of course, which means the buy window here is still open.
One to buy-high
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Titans
Look, Hopkins isn't going to score three touchdowns every week just because Will Levis is at QB, of course. And it's possible that Levis' very promising NFL debut ends up being a flash in the pan. But the reason I think Hopkins is worth buying is because I still think we're talking about a guy who is one of the best target earners in the NFL and has shown several times this season he can still consistently make plays. The fact that the Titans let Levis chuck it deep so often in his first NFL start bodes well for the trust they have in the rookie and their offense, and I think the issues in the early going were more about Ryan Tannehill just not playing well. The QB play still may end up holding Hopkins back in the long run, but I still think he has top-12 WR upside and that almost certainly isn't being factored in even after a huge game.
Three to sell-high
Over the past two weeks, Edwards has an 80-yard catch and four touchdowns. Do I actually need to say more? Look, he's a good running back in a very good offense, so there's always going to be value here. But we've seen Edwards as the lead back for the Ravens before and we know what he is: An efficient back who rarely hits on big plays or catches passes. If he's going to score touchdowns, it's almost always going to be from in close, and we know he's got competition there from Justice Hill and Lamar Jackson. When Edwards finds the end zone, he's a pretty good bet for 12-plus PPR points; when he doesn't, you're hoping he gets to eight. There just aren't very many paths to a very good Fantasy game from Edwards that don't go through the end zone, and I always want to sell a player like that when the touchdown variance Gods are smiling on them. They won't always.
Moss was pretty close to having an awful showing in Week 8, and I can't help but feel like we've gotta be getting close to the point where things truly flip in Jonathan Taylor's direction. I've said that a few times over the past few weeks, but it's hard to ignore just how much better Taylor has looked recently. Moss got loose for a 41-yard gain Sunday where he did a good job cutting back through a crowded backfield but nonetheless showed very little explosiveness on the long run, and then scored a short-yardage touchdown where he was lucky to have fallen on top of a defender and was able to stretch out for the score. Those plays happened, of course, but I'm not sure how predictable they were. Taylor got up to a season-high 59% snap share in Week 8, and I think the Colts probably left some points on the field by focusing on Moss so much in the second half. At some point, that's going to change, and not in Moss' favor. I'd be trying to move him before the bottom falls out here because I think the likeliest outcome is Moss is just a six-to-eight-touch guy at some point soon.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets
The thing that's so frustrating for those of you who drafted Wilson in the second round is how obviously correct you were about the bet that you made about his talent level. He might actually be one of the five best wide receivers in the NFL already. The problem is, because Zach Wilson is still playing pretty lousy football, Wilson's spike weeks look like Week 8, where he had seven catches for 100 yards on 13 targets. That's a good game! But it was only good for a WR17 finish, and it's his best game of the season. Compare that to, say, someone like Michael Pittman, who probably isn't a more talented player and isn't exactly in a great situation, but still has three different games with more points than Wilson's best performance. If Aaron Rodgers were healthy, Wilson's smash weeks might look like 10-140-2, but it's just so much harder to get there with Zach Wilson. Garrett Wilson has had a couple of good games in a row, but they've required gargantuan individual efforts. What does it look like when he has a bad game?
One to sell-low
The weird thing about Mostert's little lull over the past couple of weeks is that it has come without the Dolphins getting much from any of their other running backs. He had just 46 yards on 13 carries with no targets in Week 8, and the team's other running backs only combined for 13 touches. What happens when De'Von Achane, a legitimate threat to Mostert's standing as the team's top option, returns – he's eligible after the team's Week 10 bye. Or, what happens if Jeff Wilson starts to show some life? The Dolphins like Mostert, but they surely know about his injury history and are going to keep finding ways to keep him fresh. This offense should still keep Mostert relevant for Fantasy, but I don't think he's an RB1 moving forward. You might be able to find someone who still values him that way.
🔍Week 9 Position Previews
Every Tuesday, Heath Cummings previews each position, providing injury insights, key stats to know, the best waiver-wire adds, DFS targets, and more for, , , and . Here's a brief rundown of each position, along with some key details you need to know before you go read Heath's full breakdowns:
"A few years ago the most fashionable view to espouse as a Fantasy analyst was that you should wait on quarterback in your Fantasy drafts. The reason was that the position is so deep that you won't have any trouble at all streaming good production on a weekly basis.
Well, I do have some streaming options I feel pretty good about in the article below. But how I feel about them has nothing to do with them and how low the bar suddenly is to be a top-12 QB. With Kirk Cousins out for the season, and Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Trevor Lawrence, and Russell Wilson all missing from the Week 9 projections, quarterback is anything but deep.
Put another way, there are 12 QBs who have started at least two games and are averaging at least 20 Fantasy points per game this season. Seven of them are playing this week. What that means is you should expect more competition for streaming options than normal. It's up to you whether that causes you to bid more for your top option, or bid the same on several options. I favor the latter."
- On a bye: Jared Goff, Trevor Lawrence, Brock Purdy and Russell Wilson.
- Injuries: Kirk Cousins (Achilles), Matthew Stafford (thumb), Deshaun Watson (shoulder), Justin Fields (thumb), Ryan Tannehill (ankle), Daniel Jones (neck), Tyrod Taylor (ribs), Baker Mayfield (knee), Kenny Pickett (ribs) and Kyler Murray (knee).
- Number to know: 16.2% -- Joshua Dobbs 16.2% off-target rate is the second-highest in the league. He may stabilize things in Minnesota but it's still an enormous downgrade from Kirk Cousins.
- Matchup that matters: Bryce Young vs. IND (20th vs. QB)
- Waiver add/streamer: Bryce Young, Panthers: "Young and Gardner Minshew face off in a battle of my two favorite streamers this week. I slightly favor Young for two reasons. One, his matchup is better, and two Young has the upside to become a weekly starter in the second half of the season. Still, there's not a big enough difference between the top three streamers for me to spend too much on any one of them."
- Stash: Will Levis, Titans: "Will Levis' debut was spectacular, but I'm not quite ready to start him on a short week against the Steelers. That being said, unless I have a top six QB on my roster, I would like to have Levis as my QB2. If that upside validates, he could be a borderline starter rest of season."
"With the Raiders firing head coach Josh McDaniels overnight, Fantasy managers have to be hoping that whatever the Raiders do on offense it will be better for Davante Adams. Adams has just 142 receiving yards in his last four games combined and he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3. It's the worst stretch of his career since the end of the 2015 season.
There are plenty of reasons for Adams' struggles. Jimmy Garoppolo left Week 6 early, missed Week 7, and was wildly inaccurate in his Week 8 return. It was Garoppolo's first game since Week 5 of 2020 with a completion percentage below 50%. Adams himself has been dealing with a shoulder injury.
Still, when a 30-year-old receiver goes through a slump like this, it's easy to wonder if he's reached the end. I would bet against that considering that Adams had 33 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns during the first month of the season. The veteran ran wide open on Monday night also, and could have produced a 200-yard night with two scores if Garoppolo had been able to put the ball in the same area code."
- On a bye: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Travis Etienne, Tank Bigsby, Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine.
- Injuries: Derrick Henry (ankle), Tyjae Spears (ankle), David Montgomery (ribs), Kyren Williams (ankle), De'Von Achane (knee), James Conner (knee), Khalil Herbert (ankle), Damien Harris (neck) and Keaton Mitchell (hamstring).
- Number to know: 3.95 -- Taylor leads all backs at 3.95 yards after contact per rush (minimum 40 attempts).
- Matchup that matters: Jerome Ford vs. ARI (31st vs. RB)
- Waiver add: Zach Charbonnet, Seahawks: "It's a stretch to start Charbonnet this week, so he may belong in the stash section, but I want to stress how imperative it is to make sure he's rostered in your league. If Ken Walker misses a game Charbonnet is going to be a top-12 running back. Also, if we get another game where Charbonnet plays more than Walker in Week 9, we'll view the rookie as much more than a handcuff."
- Stash: Devin Singletary, Texans: "Singletary outscored Pierce for the second straight week last week and the latter doesn't even have a target in their last two games. At any moment Singletary could take over as the starter, at the very least he's a touchdown-dependent flex until then."
"Josh Palmer has seen seven or more targets in four straight games, just lit the Chiefs up for 133 yards, and it feels like he's still being overlooked. I project him as a top-20 wide receiver in Week 8, and if his role stays the same, he may just be a top-20 wide receiver rest of the season.
"One thing to put Palmer's recent performance in context is that the Chiefs and Cowboys have been two of the best defenses in the NFL against opposing wide receivers. Palmer and Christian Kirk are the only receivers who have topped 100 yards against Kansas City. And while he didn't do much against the Cowboys, he had three catches and a touchdown overturned because of offensive line penalties.
"Palmer has played at least 97% of the snaps in each of his last two games and is the clear second option for Justin Herbert. Austin Ekeler's role has shrunk and Quentine Johnston has simply not mattered. If these things don't change in the second half Palmer has top-15 upside."
- On a bye: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Jameson Williams, Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.
- Injuries: Puka Nacua (knee), Drake London (groin), DeAndre Hopkins (toe), Kendrick Bourne (ACL), DeVante Parker (concussion), Deebo Samuel (shoulder), Justin Jefferson (hamstring), Curtis Samuel (toe), Zay Jones (knee) and Robert Woods (foot).
- Number to know: 26% -- Demario Douglas has been targeted on 26% of his routes this season. He should run all of the routes for New England in Week 9.
- Matchup that matters: Diontae Johnson vs. TEN (19th vs. RB)
- Waiver add: Jahan Dotson, Commanders: "Dotson is emerging as the guy we drafted him to be with 18 targets over his past two games and 24 PPR Fantasy points in Week 9. Curtis Samuel is dinged up and the team just traded away two of their best defensive players. Sam Howell should continue to lead the league in drop backs per game and Dotson's target share should reflect the second-year wideout being his second target this week. "
- Stash: Quentin Johnston, Chargers: "Johnston's five catches for 50 yards in Week 8 were enough to grab my attention and put him back on the end of my rosters. But his Week 9 matchup against the Jets is too tough to consider starting him. Stash Johnston and hope his involvement continues to trend in the right direction."
"You would think with Dalton Kincaid and Trey McBride emerging last week as must-start options and with Taysom Hill's continued success, that there would be few teams looking for a streamer. That might be true if we hadn't lost Darren Waller to injury in Week 8 but the fact that Sam LaPorta, Evan Engram, and George Kittle are all on bye doesn't help.
The worst thing it that you can't drop any of those guys we're missing. The lack of options means you probably can't drop Jonnu Smith either, even if that is exactly what I planned on doing after his second consecutive Fantasy dud. Smith now has four catches for 40 yards in his last two games combined, yet he still ranks as a top 15 option for me this week."
- On a bye: George Kittle, Evan Engram and Sam LaPorta
- Injuries: Darren Waller (hamstring), Dawson Knox (wrist), Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), Gerald Everett (quadriceps), Zach Ertz (quadriceps) and Greg Dulcich (hamstring).
- Number to know: 14 -- Trey McBride saw 14 targets in his first game without Zach Ertz. He was the youngest tight end to see that many targets in a game since Jordan Reed in 2013.
- Matchup that matters: Darren Waller vs. NYJ (27th vs. TE)
- Streamer: Trey McBride, Cardinals: "Trey McBride is second only to Travis Kelce in both targets per route run and yards per route run. Even with a terrible matchup this week against the Browns, he's a must-start tight end. Rest of season he may legitimately be a top-five tight end. He's the No. 1 priority at any position this week if you don't already have an elite tight end."