Week 9 was a strange week of NFL football. We had a news-packed week, filled with Aaron Rodgers' COVID-19-related absence and Derrick Henry suffering a serious injury leading up to the games, and then we had big names like Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and Tua Tagovailoa end up inactive Sunday morning/afternoon. And, then, of course, there were the games, which featured shocking upsets and some absolute stinkers from some of the game's best offenses like Dallas, Buffalo, and the L.A. Rams. It's only fitting, in fact, that the last score of Sunday's games was a receiving touchdown by, who else, Sony Michel. Well, that helped nobody.
I took an early look at the top waiver-wire options for Week 10 Sunday night, and Heath Cummings tried to separate fact from fiction about the biggest storylines coming out of Sunday's games in his Believe It or Not column here. To finish up our Week 9 recap, here are my biggest winners and losers, takeaways, and one thing to know from every game Sunday.
Ravens 34-Vikings 31
No team asks more from their quarterback than Lamar Jackson, who serves as the team's lead running back in addition to the quarterback. Jackson rushed for 120 yards on 21 carries Sunday in addition to 41 pass attempts. He hasn't been as good as his historic 2019 season, but I think Jackson is every bit as good as he's ever been -- and every bit as good as any QB in Fantasy right now.
- Winner: Marquise Brown. Even with Rashod Bateman taking a step forward and earning a career-high eight targets, Brown had another big game, with nine catches for 116 yards on 12 targets. Maybe when Sammy Watkins returns, his volume will take a hit, but I doubt it. Brown is being used as a legitimate No. 1 WR with a 25% target share, and they're throwing more than ever.
- Loser: Adam Thielen. Thielen extended his touchdown streak to three games, but he stumbled after two big games. He was held back by Kirk Cousins' struggles this week, but the problem here is just that his floor is lower than we've gotten used to. His role near the end zone keeps him viable as a starter, and there is still room for boom games, but he remains solidly in the lower-end WR2 range for me.
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Patriots 24-Panthers 6
The Patriots didn't have to do much on offense as Sam Darnold's struggles continued. At some point, Matt Rhule is going to have to make a change, and based on his post-game comments "at some point" may be Week 10.
- Winner: Rhamondre Stevenson. Both Stevenson and Damien Harris left this game early with head injuries, so we'll have to keep an eye on their statuses for Week 11, but Stevenson was very impressive Sunday. He led the team in both rushing and receiving yards, racking up 62 on 10 carries and then 44 on two catches. Harris remains the starter as long as he's healthy, but Stevenson is the only back in this offense who has shown three-down potential, so if he ever gets the opportunity to get a starter's workload, Stevenson has league-winning potential.
- Loser: Sam Darnold. And everyone associated with Sam Darnold. Early on this season, it looked like Darnold might have made a post-Adam Gase leap. Not so much. Darnold was picked off three times in this one, giving him 10 interceptions in his last six games, with just four touchdowns. Things can't stay this bad forever, right? I'm not sure P.J. Walker would be an upgrade for the Panthers offense, but it can't hurt to try at this point.
Browns 41-Bengals 16
Is Baker Mayfield actually better without Odell Beckham? It was a bit stunning to see the Browns blow out the Bengals like this. Mayfield was efficient but threw the ball just 21 times; partially as a result of the blow out, but also partially because that's just how the Browns want to play. Jarvis Landry was the only receiver with more than three targets, so even without Beckham, there probably isn't much reason to be excited about this passing game.
- Winner: Nick Chubb. Chubb only got 14 carries in this one, but this was a game where the context really mattered, as the Browns ran just 46 offensive plays. You can thank Chubb and his 70-yard touchdown for part of that. While we'd like to see Chubb get back to the 20-carry mark -- he had 16 in his previous game coming back from injury -- but part of why he didn't get there was because he was so good. That's what makes Chubb so dangerous.
- Another winner: Joe Mixon. Mixon scored two touchdowns on the ground, but once again, it's his work in the passing game that draws our attention. Mixon had five catches on five targets in this one, his third game in the last four with at least five. Seeing as he went four games in a row where he had just six targets total between Weeks 2 and 5, that's very, very good news. Even better news is that Samaje Perine and Chris Evans combined for just four targets in a game where the Bengals were trailing basically from the start. I'm still not 100% sure I trust the Bengals to use him like this every week, but when they're getting him involved in the passing game, Mixon is among the handful of best backs in football.
- Loser: Tyler Boyd. Boyd has been a distant third in the receiving hierarchy this season; he was about seventh Sunday, finishing with two targets on 42 total attempts. He is averaging 5.4 targets per game with both Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase active, a 16-game pace of just 87. You can drop Boyd.
Broncos 30-Cowboys 16
This was one of the surprises of the day, and the final score vastly overstates how Dallas' offense played. They had just 122 yards through the first three quarters of the game before scoring two touchdowns in the fourth to make it look a bit more respectable. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb were all dealing with injuries this week and it's fair to wonder if we can just chalk this up to everyone not being at 100%. Speaking of Ezekiel Elliott did leave this game with a knee contusion, so that's something to watch for Week 10.
- Winner: Javonte Williams. There's no sign that the Broncos are getting ready to take work away from Melvin Gordon to feature Williams -- Gordon had 21 carries and three targets while Williams had 17 and zero. However, games like this do show how much more dynamic Williams is than Gordon, who rushed for 3.8 yards per carry and is averaging 3.84 since Week 1. There's been a running joke on Fantasy Football Today this season about how someone declares this is "Javonte Week" every week, and I won't be the next one to do it. I have no idea if or when the Broncos are going to make the change. But Williams remains well worth stashing, even if you can't exactly rely on him every week.
- Loser: In two games since Jerry Jeudy's return, Sutton has just three catches for 49 yards on six targets, which is pretty alarming. Jeudy led the team with eight targets Sunday, while Sutton had just two. It's too small a sample size to give up on a player as talented as Sutton, but this is a bad sign for his chances of being a must-start Fantasy option moving forward for sure. He's more like a WR3 right now I think. I hope.
Jaguars 9-Bills 6
Wait, what? The Bills managed just 301 total yards against the Jaguars, a defense that entered the game averaging 386 yards of offense against. It's hard to diagnose exactly where things went wrong for the Bills except that the Jaguars pass rush made life tough for Josh Allen, who just struggled. It probably doesn't mean anything moving forward, but it was weird to watch.
- Winner: James Robinson. There really aren't many good answers for this one, so I'll go with Robinson ... who didn't even play. However, Carlos Hyde gave the Jaguars coaching staff no reason to think he deserves to cut into Robinson's role when he's healthy. Hyde rushed for 67 yards on 21 carries and had just one catch for 6 yards. He shouldn't be a focal point unless the Jaguars have no other options. Hopefully they'll have another option in Week 10.
- Loser: Laviska Shenault. I want Shenault to happen, too, but I just don't think it is. We're eight games into the season and he has one game with more than 58 yards, and he needed a broken play leading to 52 yards to make that happen. The Jaguars just don't seem to think he is as good as the Fantasy community. He's still 45% rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues, and you can safely drop him in most of those.
Dolphins 17-Texans 9
The Dolphins really didn't give us much reason to think Tua Tagovailoa's finger injury was a concern, so it was pretty shocking when it was announced prior to kickoff that Jacoby Brissett would be starting. Maybe Tagovailoa could have pushed it, but the Dolphins didn't need much from their offense, as the Texans turned the ball over four times and managed just three field goals. Still, it was a disappointing showing from both offenses, given their respective matchups, with Jaylen Waddle and (maybe) Myles Gaskin probably the only two to live up to expectations.
- Winner: Jaylen Waddle. Even without Tagovailoa, Waddle had a good game. He earned 10 targets (23.2% target share) to lead the team and caught eight of them for 83 yards. This offense doesn't look likely to ever be much more than mediocre, which probably puts a ceiling on how good Waddle can be this season, but he has a 16-game pace of 116 catches, 1,060 yards and eight touchdowns over his past four games. Given the volume he's seeing in this offseason, Waddle is probably a solid WR2 moving forward. Think of him like a poor man's Diontae Johnson with room to grow.
- Loser: Tyrod Taylor. I had Taylor as a top-12 quarterback in his return from IR. I'm so sorry. The Dolphins entered the game ranked 29th in points allowed and had struggled with Josh Allen, the only rushing QB on their schedule. However, they overwhelmed the Texans line with their creative blitz schemes, sacking Taylor five times and forcing three interceptions. I'm confident Taylor will be better moving forward, but if you added him in a one-QB league, go ahead and drop him with the Texans' bye coming up. Also: There is absolutely no reason to roster any of the Texans backs in Fantasy right now; they split 20 touches four ways. No thanks.
- I ... I just don't know: What do we do with Gaskin? Seriously, you tell me. He had 20 carries and six targets against one of the worst defenses in the NFL and he managed a whopping 57 yards. Maybe it would have been different with Tagovailoa at QB, and the usage was obviously promising. He has 12 carries or more in three straight games with at least four targets in each game, so maybe he's just an RB2 moving forward. But the thing about starting a player who might not be very good just because he has a valuable role is ... that role can disappear pretty quickly. Just ask Mike Davis.
Falcons 27-Saints 25
The Saints are 5-3 and had a chance to win this one with a furious fourth quarter comeback, but I've gotta say, sometimes I think Sean Payton gets too cute for his own good. He almost named Taysom Hill the starter in preseason and then decided to start Trevor Siemian over him? Trevor Siemian? If Payton didn't want Hill to start in his first game back since suffering a concussion in Week 5, that's one thing; if he's really planning on having Trevor Siemian start the rest of the season, I can't really make sense of it.
- Winner: Cordarrelle Patterson. The Falcons couldn't get the running game going, but they were able to move the ball through the air, and Patterson led them with six catches for 126 yards. It took a long time, but an NFL team finally figured out how to use Patterson. He's a top-12 RB for me rest of season.
- Loser No. 1: Alvin Kamara. Okay, there's probably nothing you can do about it, but I've gotta be honest, I hate what I'm seeing from Kamara since Mark Ingram joined the team. Kamara split carries with Ingram 13-9 and didn't see a target until there were 12 minutes left in the third quarter Sunday. After playing a season-low 67% of the snaps in Week 8, Ingram's first game, and it remained steady this week. He still scored a touchdown and ended up with four catches for 54 yards on seven targets, so it was a fine game for Fantasy, but in a worse offense that isn't featuring him as a passer nearly as often, Kamara losing snaps is definitely a bad sign. He's more like a low-end RB1 for me.
- Loser No. 2: I was skeptical about Mike Davis coming into the season for exactly the reasons we're seeing. Well, not exactly ... I didn't expect Cordarrelle Patterson to break out in his ninth season. But I was worried that Davis might just get his starting job taken from him because he just isn't a particularly good player. That doesn't matter so much if you're going to get the kind of work we thought Davis was, but it definitely matters if you can't hang on to that role, and Davis hasn't. He still played more than half the snaps and still has enough of a role to where I'm not looking to drop him, but it's clear you can't rely on him even in PPR leagues as long as Patterson is the focal point of the offense.
Giants 23-Raiders 16
Derek Carr struggled in this one, passing for 296 yards but needing 46 attempts to get there while being picked off twice. Darren Waller played well and Kenyan Drake and Hunter Renfrow gave him reliable short-area targets, but just eight of his pass attempts traveled more than 15 yards down the field, his second-lowest mark of the season. Maybe the signing of DeSean Jackson will help, because it's no coincidence that the Raiders three losses were also Carr's lowest Intended Air Yards per Target games, too.
- Winner: Kenyan Drake. Josh Jacobs left this game with an injury for a time, so that might explain why Drake played just one fewer snap than Jacobs did. However, it's also worth noting that Drake was used almost exclusively in the passing game, a role we envisioned for him when the Raiders signed him. With matchups against the Chiefs, Bengals, and Cowboys on the way over the next three weeks, Drake could be involved in the passing game if those games turn into shootouts or they find themselves trailing again. He's worth rostering in all PPR leagues, at least.
- Loser: Kadarius Toney. I don't want to say you should drop Toney with the Giants bye week coming up, but you're going to face some awfully tough decisions. For instance, if Brandon Aiyuk was out there on the wire in my league, I'd probably have to drop Toney to add Aiyuk; ditto for Rashod Bateman, and I might do it for Elijah Moore, too. I still like Toney's potential, but in two games since coming back from injury, he has six targets, five catches, and 35 yards. I just don't know if this offense is good enough to support multiple Fantasy relevant wide receivers, and I'm not sure Toney is ready to stand out just yet.
Chargers 27-Eagles 24
The Eagles stuck with their renewed commitment to the running game while Justin Herbert pulled out of his recent slide. Only one of those was good news for Fantasy, as Jalen Hurts had his second-worst Fantasy game of the season with 18.7 points. That comes one week after he had just 11.2 points. That's not a great sign.
- Winner: Devonta Smith. It's been an up-and-down rookie season for Smith, but Sunday was a good example of why you don't want to risk dropping a talented player with an obvious No. 1 WR role. The Eagles may be less pass-heavy in the second half of the season, but if that can help make Hurts a more efficient passer, that may not be a bad thing for Smith, who had five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown on six touchdowns (35% target share).
- Loser: Mike Williams. Alright, you can start panicking now. I was willing to get Williams a mulligan for Week 6 (injury) and Week 7 (tough matchup), but the Eagles shouldn't have hardly been the kind of defense you worry about this season. I wonder if his knee injury is more of an issue than the team is letting on of late, but he now has just six catches on 15 targets over the past three games. Was his dominant start just a fluke? I hope not, but with Keenan Allen re-establishing himself as the clear top target (29 targets over the past three games) in this offense, Williams is looking more like a WR2/3.
Chiefs 13-Packers 7
That's 17.4 points per game for the Chiefs offense over the past five games, compared to 33.5 in their first four. I really don't know what to do with this team at this point. On the one hand, it feels like an overreaction to downgrade Patrick Mahomes and this offense significantly when we saw three seasons leading up to this one where they were arguably the best offense in the NFL. On the other, it sure feels like an underreaction to just assume an offense that has managed 30 points just once in the past four will be unstoppable moving forward. Ultimately, I'm going to remain optimistic about the Chiefs, but it's based on faith more than anything. As for the Packers ... well, I can't say I have any faith in Jordan Love at this point.
- Winner: Darrel Williams. Derrick Gore forced his way onto the field and into a significant role in Week 9, but it was all Williams Sunday. He wasn't great -- 70 yards on 19 carries, three catches for 7 yards -- but it was a return to the workload we expected with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out. Williams will be an RB2 for Week 10 against the Raiders if Edwards-Helaire remains sidelined.
- Loser: Jordan Love. It's just one game under pretty tough circumstances for a first NFL start, but Love did not inspire a lot of confidence in this one. With Aaron Rodgers (reserve/COVID-19) out, Love was just 19 for 34 for 190 yards and a touchdown, plus an interception. And he looked worse than the numbers if you asked me. It probably doesn't matter much for the rest of 2021, because Rodgers could be back as soon as Week 10 against the Seahawks, but if that's all we really see of Love this season and Rodgers is gone in the offseason, I don't know how you could feel good about him for 2022. Or this offense.
Cardinals 31-49ers 17
Jimmy Garoppolo's numbers weren't bad, but he didn't play nearly as well as the box score looked, a recurring theme for this team. I don't know if they're close to the point where they might bench Garoppolo for Trey Lance, but it wouldn't really surprise me. The good news is, Brandon Aiyuk finally had a breakout game after telling reports this week that his struggles in practice are behind him. He should be one of the biggest waiver-wire priorities for Week 10.
- Winner: James Conner. Well, that was unexpected. Conner, who has been mostly written off as a touchdown-or-bust guy stepped up in a big way with Kyler Murray out and Chase Edmonds leaving with an ankle injury early on, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries plus 77 yards on six catches with another touchdown. The rushing work isn't terribly surprising, but Conner being that effective in the passing game was eye opening; I wasn't sure he could still do that at this point. If Edmonds has to miss time moving forward, Conner is probably a top-15 back for Fantasy.
- Loser: Rondale Moore. With DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) and A.J. Green (reserve/COVID-19) out, Moore ran a route on nearly every pass play, which was a good sign, but he really didn't do much to take advantage of the opportunity. Obviously, Colt McCoy is no Murray, but Christian Kirk still managed six catches for 91 yards; Moore had just five for 25. I love Moore's talent, and he's going to have moments where he makes a real impact for the Cardinals, but he has more than 28 receiving yards in just one of his past seven games now. You can probably drop him.
Titans 28-Rams 16
Don't let the scoreboard fool you -- the Titans offense was not good in this one. They rushed for 69 yards on 26 carries and had just 143 yards, as they won on the strength of a few big plays by the defense. I'm not so worried about A.J. Brown, and it was nice to see Julio Jones play 75% of the snaps and make it through the game without a setback. But, at least based on what we saw in the first week without Derrick Henry, you might want to avoid this running game.
- Winner: I've been all over the place with Robert Woods. He was a top-12 WR coming into the season for me, but I had him as a loser after last week's 35-yard game. So, of course, he comes back to lead the Rams with 98 yards on seven catches Sunday. There's so much upside in this offense, which is why it's been so disappointing to see him and Matthew Stafford struggle to get on the same page so often this season. However, that upside is still very much there, so I'll celebrate anytime we see it.
- Loser: Adrian Peterson. I suppose you could spin this as a win for Peterson, as he led the team with 10 carries and found the end zone despite signing just six days ago. However, D'Onta Foreman also had five carries and Jeremy McNichols had seven, while Peterson predictably had a very limited passing game role. Maybe his usage will increase moving forward, but I didn't see any reason to think Peterson is going to be much more than a fringe Fantasy option. If last week was the best time to trade him, this week is the second-best.
- Note: Darrell Henderson left Sunday's game with an ankle injury but was able to return. That helps explain why he only had 11 carries while Sony Michel had seven, though most even split of the season. As long as Henderson is healthy, he dominates touches, so hopefully this injury won't linger. It's also worth considering the possibility that, with Henderson having left multiple games with injury scares, the Rams may consider limiting Henderson's role just a bit -- he's playing around 80% or more of the snaps in just about every game this season.
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