As we pointed out in this week's Waiver Wire column, it's ugly in Week 9 at running back because of injuries and the key players on a bye. You should consider yourself lucky if you have two quality starters, even in a 12-team league.
It was hard finding running backs to recommend as sit candidates this week because even the guys with bad matchups like Todd Gurley (vs. CAR), Isaiah Crowell (vs. DAL) and Latavius Murray (vs. DEN), among others, are worth starting because of their potential workloads.
You might find yourself starting running backs like C.J. Prosise and Paul Perkins, who could see increased roles this week. And it's a benefit if you added someone like Charcandrick West, Tim Hightower or Antone Smith off the waiver wire because all three have the chance to be great in Week 9.
We hope your team will not suffer because of poor running back play this week. But that's where we are in Week 9 with injuries and Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, New England and Houston on bye.
Sometimes it's not just about having a running back with talent. It might just be about having a running back who steps on the field and can turn minimal touches into a productive day.
Editor's Note: Projections are provided by CBS Sports and not Jamey Eisenberg.
Start of the Week
Romo's injury in the preseason has brought us Dak Mania, and Fantasy owners have benefited from the rookie sensation. That's not to discredit Romo. He might have had the same success or more through the first seven games for Dallas (6-1).
But Prescott is the Cowboys starter now, and we hope he has one more outstanding game this week at Cleveland. He's scored at least 21 Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his past five games, and his worst outing over that span was 19 points in Week 5 against Cincinnati.
He's coming off his best game of the year in Week 8 against Philadelphia with 30 Fantasy points, which coincided with Dez Bryant returning from a three-game absence with a knee injury. Bryant should help Prescott continue to dominate, and this is a tremendous matchup against the Browns.
Prior to last week when Cleveland held Ryan Fitzpatrick to 16 Fantasy points, every opposing quarterback against the Browns scored at least 20 points. That should be Prescott's floor, and he's worth starting in all leagues, especially with guys like Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins and Carson Palmer on a bye. He should also be better than standout Fantasy quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford (at MIN) and Derek Carr (vs. DEN), who have difficult matchups.
Now, there's a risk involved with Prescott if the Cowboys build a lead behind their running game with Ezekiel Elliott and don't need to throw. But we expect the Browns offense to show up this week, especially with Dallas down two defensive backs in Barry Church (arm) and Morris Claiborne (groin).
This game could end up being a high-scoring affair, and the Cowboys offense should do their part behind Prescott. We don't know how many more games he'll start if Dallas gives the job back to Romo. But as long as Prescott is playing well he has the chance to start for Fantasy owners, especially this week against the Browns.
I'm starting Prescott over: Russell Wilson (vs. BUF), Matthew Stafford (at MIN) and Derek Carr (vs. DEN)
Mariota has become a solid Fantasy quarterback of late, and we expect him to play well for another week against the Chargers. He comes into this game with at least 20 Fantasy points in four games in a row, and he has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception over that span. Now, three of those games have come at home against some miserable defenses in Cleveland, Indianapolis and Jacksonville, but his best outing was at Miami in Week 5 with 36 Fantasy points. The Chargers have only allowed one quarterback in their past six games to score more than 16 Fantasy points in a standard league, which was Carr in Week 5, including matchups with Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan over that span. But Alex Smith and Blake Bortles also scored at least 22 Fantasy points against San Diego this year, and they both had at least three points using their legs. Mariota's running ability should come into play this week, and he remains a No. 1 quarterback in Week 9.
Rivers has the chance for a standout performance this week against a Titans defense that has allowed at least 25 Fantasy points in a standard league in three weeks in a row to Cody Kessler, Luck and Bortles. Now, Bortles got his production in garbage time, but Tennessee has allowed eight touchdowns with no interceptions in the previous three games. Rivers is due for a big day after three games in a row with 16 Fantasy points or less, but two of those were on the road and two were against the Broncos. In two of three home games this year, Rivers has scored at least 22 Fantasy points, and he should score at least that many points this week, even if Travis Benjamin (knee) is out. Rivers could easily be a top five Fantasy quarterback in Week 9.
There are several things working in Winston's favor this week. He's coming off two solid performances against San Francisco and Oakland with at least 22 Fantasy points in a standard league in each outing, and he has five touchdowns and one interception over that span. He also faced Atlanta in Week 1 and passed for 281 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for 33 Fantasy points. The Falcons have allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, with five guys scoring at least 30 points, including Aaron Rodgers last week with 41 points. Winston might not score 30-plus points again in the rematch, but he should score another 20 points for the third week in a row. He remains a must-start quarterback in all formats against the Falcons on Thursday night.
Manning has a good track record coming off a bye week, and we expect him to play well against the Eagles. In his past five years after a bye week, Manning is averaging 21 Fantasy points in a standard league, including two years in a row with at least 25 points, which is the time he's worked with head coach Ben McAdoo. The Eagles have struggled of late against opposing quarterbacks with three guys scoring at least 20 Fantasy points in the past four outings, including Stafford, Cousins and Prescott. The lone quarterback who failed to hit that mark was Sam Bradford in Week 7. Manning also likes facing the Eagles at home. In his past four meetings against the Eagles in New York, he's averaging 25 Fantasy points, and we like the way all these trends are coming together this week. With all the quarterbacks on bye, Manning is worth starting in most formats if you need a replacement starter.
Most weeks it would be a huge risk to trust Tannehill as a starter because he's been a mediocre Fantasy quarterback this season. He only has two games with more than 18 Fantasy points in a standard league and none since Week 3. The Dolphins have been the Jay Ajayi show of late, which has left Tannehill with one touchdown pass in his past two games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo. But with all the quarterbacks on bye you should buy into Tannehill as a low-end starting option, especially in two-quarterback leagues because of the matchup with the Jets. Three of the past five opposing quarterbacks against the Jets have scored at least 24 Fantasy points in a standard league, including Josh McCown last week. Tannehill also had five touchdown passes in two games against the Jets last year (along with three interceptions), but he scored 28 Fantasy points against the Jets in Week 12 and should be in line for a productive game this week. He's worth the risk given the potential upside, especially with all the quarterbacks off in Week 9.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (at MIA): Fitzpatrick had 37 FPTS in his last game vs. MIA last year.
- Colin Kaepernick (vs. NO): Only two QBs have scored fewer than 20 FPTS vs. NO.
- Trevor Siemian (at OAK): Five QBs have at least 22 FPTS vs. OAK.
Jay Cutler played well against the Vikings last week with 21-of-30 passing for 252 yards and one touchdown, but he scored just 16 Fantasy points. The best game against Minnesota so far was Mariota in Week 1 with 19 points, which includes matchups with Rodgers and Cam Newton, and Stafford comes into this game off two outings with fewer than 20 Fantasy points against Washington and Houston. It's the second road game in a row for the Lions, and the Vikings are returning home after two road games, both losses. Now, Stafford played well against Minnesota last year with at least 22 Fantasy points in both games, but this defense is better in 2016. I have Stafford in two leagues, and I'm benching him for Prescott and Tannehill because I expect him to struggle.
The Seahawks are beat up coming into this game with Kam Chancellor (groin) and Michael Bennett (knee) hurt, although Chancellor could return this week. We've seen quarterbacks have success against Seattle of late with Matt Ryan in Week 6 and Drew Brees last week, and both scored at least 22 Fantasy points in a standard league. But those are two of the best Fantasy quarterbacks this year, and Taylor has been inconsistent all season. He has two games with at least 23 Fantasy points in his past three games, but he only has three of those performances for the season. Buffalo is trying to help the receiving corps by bringing Percy Harvin out of retirement, but it's hard to count on Harvin elevating Taylor's production on the road at Seattle. And Taylor is averaging just 16.3 Fantasy points on the road this year. He's an easy quarterback to avoid in most formats in Week 9.
Wentz has fallen off as a relevant Fantasy quarterback in the past three games, and it's hard to trust him in another road outing. The Giants have actually done a great job against opposing quarterbacks, with Cousins in Week 3 the lone guy with more than 19 Fantasy points in a standard league, including matchups with Prescott, Brees and Rodgers. Wentz is averaging just 13.8 Fantasy points on the road and has just one outing with 20 Fantasy points away from Philadelphia, which was at Detroit in Week 5. This is also the second time he's playing consecutive road games, and the last time he had that on the second game was Week 6 at Washington with seven Fantasy points. Hopefully he will turn things around as a Fantasy quarterback this year, but right now he should be benched in the majority of leagues.
Bortles was great in garbage time in Week 8 at Tennessee with 35 Fantasy points, but he did not play well in that game before cobbling together 337 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was just the second time this season he didn't turn the ball over, and we'll see what happens with the offensive coordinator change from Greg Olson to Nathaniel Hackett. While we'd like to trust Bortles this week, it should be tough for him on the road at Kansas City. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 11 interceptions, including one in each of the past three games against Carr, Brees and Luck, and they have nine sacks over that span. Brees and Luck both scored at least 22 Fantasy points against Kansas City, but Bortles has just three games with more than 16 points on the season. Bortles is worth using in two-quarterback leagues this week, but I'm not starting him in one-quarterback formats until I see consistent play from him, whether it's garbage-time production or not.
Carr was awesome last week at Tampa Bay in one of the best performances from any player this season. He had 513 passing yards and four touchdowns for 43 Fantasy points in a standard league, and he's now scored at least 23 points in five of eight outings this year. But he's headed for a letdown this week with his matchup with the Broncos, who held him to a combined 28 Fantasy points in two games last year and only 23 points in 2014. In four career games with Denver, Carr is averaging 184 passing yards with six total touchdowns, four interceptions and two fumbles. We know the Broncos have once again been dominant against opposing quarterbacks with Newton in Week 1 the lone guy with more than 16 Fantasy points, including matchups with Luck, Dalton, Winston, Ryan and Rivers twice. Rivers is the lone quarterback with multiple passing touchdowns against Denver, which he did last week, but he also had three interceptions and finished with just 16 points. That's a safe range for Carr, even at home, and he's a low-end starting option at best in this matchup.
Ajayi comes off the bye with another tough matchup against the Jets, but we don't expect him to slow down based on his recent level of play behind Miami's stellar offensive line. In the two games the Dolphins had all five projected starters on the field against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, we've seen Ajayi rumble for at least 204 rushing yards and one touchdown in each game, and he's combined for 53 carries, 418 yards and three touchdowns over that span. The Jets have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this year, which was David Johnson in Week 6, but in the past five games they have allowed five running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league, including Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson last week. I'm all in on Ajayi in all formats until he lets me down, and I'm a big believer in the Dolphins offensive line. That unit should still play well against the Jets and their defensive front, and Ajayi remains a must-start Fantasy running back in Week 9 in all leagues.
Another game, another double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. That's what Gore does, and he should remain active in all leagues this week despite a potentially tough matchup against the Packers on the road. Gore only has two games this season with fewer than 10 Fantasy points, and he's been great on the road with an average of 12.3 Fantasy points in four games at Denver, Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee. Green Bay has allowed just three running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points, but two have come in the past three weeks with Ezekiel Elliott and Devonta Freeman. Gore has been productive in a variety of ways, including two receiving touchdowns the past two weeks, and he remains a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back in all leagues in Week 9.
Hyde is expected to play this week against the Saints after sitting out in Week 6 at Buffalo with a shoulder injury. And he should return with a bang. Prior to getting hurt, Hyde had at least 13 Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his first six games, and the Saints have allowed nine running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points this year, including Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise last week. New Orleans has also allowed 13 touchdowns to opposing running backs, and as long as Hyde doesn't suffer a setback with his shoulder then he should have a big day at home.
West is expected to start with Spencer Ware (concussion) hurt, but you need to check the injury report prior to Sunday to make sure Ware is out before starting West in most leagues. And we expect West to play well if he's the starter against the Jaguars. There were four times in 2015 when West had at least 16 carries when he was helping to fill in for the injured Jamaal Charles (knee), and he scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league every time. He should be just as successful as Ware has this year, and the Jaguars have allowed three running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points in their past two games against Oakland and Tennessee. If West gets a heavy workload this week as expected, he could be a top 10 Fantasy running back in the majority of leagues.
We don't know what the Ravens have planned with West and rookie Kenneth Dixon, so there's a slight cause for concern with West this week coming off a bye. But if West remains the lead running back against the Steelers then he should finish as at least a No. 2 Fantasy running back in this matchup. He's scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in three of his past four outings, and the Steelers have struggled with running backs of late with Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount both scoring at least 24 Fantasy points in a standard league. The Ravens also have a good track record of running on the Steelers, and a Baltimore running back has scored or had over 100 total yards against Pittsburgh in four games in a row going back to 2014. We'll see if West can make it five in a row, and he's worth using as a No. 2 Fantasy running back this week in all leagues.
- Antone Smith (vs. ATL): He should lead TB in touches and is a potential flex this week.
- Tim Hightower (at SF): If he takes over for Mark Ingram then he's a must-start RB at SF.
- Theo Riddick (at MIN): Four RBs have at least four catches vs. MIN this year.
- Darren Sproles (at NYG): He could be solid in all leagues if the Eagles commit to him.
- Derrick Henry (at SD): If DeMarco Murray (toe) is out then Henry could be a star at SD.
- C.J. Prosise (vs. BUF): He's getting more work and is worth a look in PPR leagues.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Mathews remains the lead guy in the backfield, but it's clear Sproles is the better Fantasy option for the time being. In Week 8 at Dallas, Sproles played 62 snaps to eight for Mathews, who finished the game with four carries for 10 yards and luckily scored a touchdown to save his Fantasy production. He only has two games with more than nine carries since Week 2 and hasn't had more than 16 touches since Week 1. He also has just 18 Fantasy points combined in his past three games and isn't worth trusting this week as anything more than a Hail Mary flex. Also, just three running backs have scored double digits in Fantasy points against the Giants this year, so this isn't an easy matchup for a running back getting minimal work.
Jennings is expected to remain the starter in Week 9 against the Eagles, but there's a strong chance Paul Perkins will see an increased workload, which should impact Jennings in a negative way. Now, he scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 7 at the Rams, but in his four other outings he combined for 13 Fantasy points in a standard league. He's averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, and we wish the Giants would give Perkins a chance to steal the job. That might happen, which makes it risky to start Jennings as anything more than a flex. The Eagles also have allowed just one rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 2.
McKinnon is hopeful of playing this week against the Lions after sitting out Week 8 at Chicago with an ankle injury, but he would be a flex option at best if healthy. It's not a tough matchup since the Lions are No. 22 in rushing yards allowed, but they've only allowed one rushing touchdown to a running back, which was Lamar Miller last week. Matt Asiata would still share touches with McKinnon if both are active, and I'd still prefer Asiata given his role at the goal line and catching passes. I'd only trust McKinnon if he puts in a full practice Thursday and Friday and shows no ill effects from his injury. Most likely, he'll need a week to shake off the rust, and it would be great to have him at 100 percent for his Week 10 matchup at Washington.
The Jaguars haven't had a running back gain more than 50 rushing yards since Week 4, and 71 yards for Yeldon is the season high. They have just two rushing touchdowns on the season combined from Yeldon and Chris Ivory, and Yeldon has the only two performances with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. So on a week when Fantasy owners are stuck looking for running back help this is likely a backfield to still avoid. Kansas City has allowed five running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points, including three at home with Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Ingram, but I have no faith in Yeldon or Ivory to deliver a solid performance with any confidence. If I had to choose one as a flex in a deeper league then I would take Yeldon because of his work in the passing game.
Gillislee was awesome last week against the Patriots as he started in place of the injured LeSean McCoy (hamstring), and we expect him to stay in that role again this week at Seattle. Gillislee had 12 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 9 yards, and it's too bad the Bills didn't give him more work. He's now scored a touchdown in three of the past four games, and we'll see if he can keep it rolling against the Seahawks. Seattle has allowed three running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points, including two in a row with David Johnson and Hightower, but both were on the road. After two consecutive road games, we expect the Seattle defense to rebound at home, which should make things tough on Gillislee. He's worth using as a flex in most leagues, but I wouldn't anoint him a must-start option in this matchup just because of his performance last week against the Patriots at home.
We'll hope to have Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Ty Montgomery (illness) back for this game against the Colts, but Adams continues to prove he's a reliable threat for Rodgers after another solid game in Week 8 at Atlanta. He had 12 catches for 74 yards on 14 targets, and he now has 30 targets for 25 catches, 206 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games against the Bears and Falcons. He's scored in three of his past four home games, and the Colts have allowed three receivers to score in their past five games. Adams would be a No. 1 receiver in all leagues if Cobb and Montgomery remain out, but he's still a No. 2 receiver if they return this week. There's a lot to like about Adams with how much Rodgers is leaning on him of late.
Moncrief came back last week from a five-game absence with a shoulder injury and had four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown on nine targets against the Chiefs. He should jump back into Fantasy lineups as at least a high-end No. 3 receiver, especially this week with T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) at less than 100 percent. The Packers have been terrible against opposing receivers all season and three teams (Detroit in Week 3, Dallas in Week 6 and Atlanta in Week 8) have had a pair of receivers score against them. Hilton, if healthy, and Moncrief should follow suit, and I'm excited that Moncrief is back from his extended absence. His breakout campaign should pick up from this point on.
The Jets secondary is awful, which means Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker are all worth using this week, in that order, with Stills and Parker as sleepers. Landry is still proving to be somewhat allergic to the end zone with only one touchdown on the year, but he's a stud in PPR leagues with five games with at least seven catches. He actually scored in his last meeting with the Jets last season with 13 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown, and we'd love a repeat performance this week. The Jets have allowed 10 receivers to score at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league, and Landry should add to their misery in this matchup.
Thomas and Brandin Cooks are worth starting this week in all leagues, and Willie Snead is no worse than a No. 3 Fantasy receiver. The 49ers are terrible against opposing receivers with 13 touchdowns allowed, and nine receivers have scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league. Thomas has been the most consistent receiver for the Saints this year and comes into this matchup with double digits in Fantasy points in four of his past five games. The nice thing for Thomas is he's still played well outdoors with 10 Fantasy points at San Diego in Week 4 and 13 points at Kansas City in Week 7. He should keep that going this week at San Francisco, and he's a solid No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.
Enunwa has come alive the past two games and finally started to deliver on the potential we hoped for when Eric Decker went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Enunwa has six catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore and Cleveland, and Fitzpatrick leaned on Enunwa last week against the Browns with 11 targets for four catches, 93 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall should end his recent slump this week against the Dolphins, but Enunwa should also play well since Miami has allowed eight receivers to score at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league. Marshall and Enunwa are both Top 20 receivers in Week 9.
- Stefon Diggs (vs. DET): He had 16 FPTS in one meeting with DET last year.
- Mohamed Sanu (at TB): He had five catches for 80 yards and a TD vs. TB in Week 1.
- Kenny Britt (vs. CAR): Eight receivers have scored double digits in FPTS vs. CAR.
- Tyrell Williams (vs. TEN): He could be the No. 1 receiver for the Chargers this week.
- Mike Wallace (vs. PIT): He's scored at least nine FPTS in consecutive games for BAL.
Jones and Golden Tate should be benched in the majority of leagues this week with the matchup against the Vikings, and Jones will likely see plenty of time opposite standout cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Now, two No. 1 receivers have scored against Minnesota in the past three games with DeAndre Hopkins in Week 5 and Alshon Jeffery last week, but Jones has tailed off of late and should continue to struggle this week. He hasn't scored double digits in Fantasy points in four games in a row, and that includes scoring two touchdowns over that span. Tate, Riddick, Anquan Boldin and Eric Ebron have taken away production, and Jones isn't worth trusting in most leagues this week given the matchup.
We're not sure what's going to happen with Benjamin this week since he's dealing with a PCL sprain in his knee, and he might not play. He's coming off a solid game at Denver when he had three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets, and this isn't a daunting matchup with the Titans, which is why we like Tyrell Williams. You can even consider Dontrelle Inman a sleeper if Benjamin is out, but Fantasy owners should prepare to bench Benjamin this week in the majority of leagues.
I'm OK with Maclin as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver this week, but let's not get overexcited about his touchdown in Week 8 against the Colts. Even with the touchdown he still managed just 10 Fantasy points in a standard league because he only had three catches for 43 yards. He hasn't cleared 50 receiving yards in three games in a row, and he only has two touchdowns on the season. To put that in perspective, rookie teammate Tyreek Hill already has four touchdowns, and we'll see who Nick Foles favors since he's starting for the injured Alex Smith (concussion). Maclin also has a somewhat tough matchup with Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and he might not follow up on last week's production when he finally found the end zone for the first time since Week 1.
It wouldn't be surprising if Beasley played well this week. After all, I like Prescott, so this passing game should have the chance to post quality stats. But the hesitation with Beasley this week if Prescott excelled in Week 8 at the Eagles with Beasley somewhat of a non-factor with just four catches for 53 yards on seven targets. And the fear is his production could suffer with Bryant now back for the Cowboys. Beasley is still worth using as a No. 3 receiver in PPR leagues, but in four games with Bryant on the field he's averaging just 6.3 Fantasy points in a standard league with no touchdowns. Now that Prescott has an elite talent like Bryant he doesn't need Beasley as much, and his production could suffer, even in a prime matchup like this against the Browns.
We'd like to see Shepard come off his bye week and get back to the level of play he showed in his first three games when he scored at least 10 Fantasy points in a standard league in each outing. But in his past four outings he's combined for just nine Fantasy points, and he's been held to under 35 receiving yards in each game. The Eagles have allowed just four touchdowns to opposing receivers, and the only Giants receiver to trust this week is Odell Beckham. Shepard needs to prove himself to Fantasy owners before he can be started as anything more than a No. 3 receiver in deeper leagues.
In two games against the Broncos last year, Cooper and Michael Crabtree combined for 12 catches for 120 yards and no touchdowns on 26 targets. The best day was five Fantasy points in a standard league from Crabtree, and it was ugly for the Raiders receivers against the Broncos elite secondary. We hope both are more productive this time around, but you should consider Crabtree a low-end No. 2 receiver and Cooper a No. 3 option. Denver has allowed just two touchdowns to receivers this year, and both were named Benjamin with Kelvin in Week 1 and Travis last week. Otherwise, the Broncos have held Hilton, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and Hopkins to seven Fantasy points or less, which speaks to how good Chris Harris and Aqib Talib are at shutting down their opponents. Now, Talib didn't play in Week 8 against the Chargers with a back injury, and he's not expected to play this week, which helps Crabtree. But Cooper dealing with Harris will be tough, which is why he's listed in this spot.
Rudolph is due for a big game after three consecutive disappointing performances in a row when he's combined for nine Fantasy points in a standard league. He hasn't scored since Week 4, and the Vikings now have a new offensive coordinator with Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner. We hope Shurmur reminds Bradford to look for Rudolph early and often in this amazing matchup with the Lions. Detroit has allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and a tight end has scored in six of eight games against the Lions this year, including C.J. Fiedorowicz last week. Rudolph has a touchdown in two of three home games this season, and he scored in both games against Detroit last year. If Rudolph doesn't perform well this week then it's time to move on from him in the majority of leagues, but we expect him to deliver in this matchup at home.
In Tampa Bay's first meeting with Atlanta in Week 1, Winston threw two touchdowns to his tight ends, but unfortunately Brate wasn't one of them. Winston had a 30-yard touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a 4-yard touchdown to Brandon Myers. Including that game, the Falcons have allowed five touchdowns to tight ends and five to score at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league. Brate just had a touchdown in Week 8 against Oakland with three catches for 22 yards on five targets, and we expect him to have another quality outing this week at home. In three home games, Brate is averaging 10 Fantasy points in a standard league after he had 16 points against the Rams in Week 3, six points against Denver in Week 4 and eight points against the Raiders.
Even though Hunter Henry has come along as the next new toy for Rivers, we continue to see Gates involved and making plays. He has 19 targets in his past two games against Atlanta and Denver, and he had four catches for 33 yards and a touchdown on nine targets against the Broncos in Week 8. He's not going to have many dominant games any more, but he should deliver at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league if things go right, which has happened in three of the six games he's played this year. Tennessee has allowed a tight end to score in consecutive games with Jack Doyle in Week 7 and Julius Thomas in Week 8. We hope Gates makes it three in a row, and he's worth trusting this week in most formats. Henry should be considered just a No. 2 tight end this week in most leagues.
- Gary Barnidge (vs. DAL): He's due for a touchdown and DAL is beat up on defense.
- Dennis Pitta (vs. PIT): He's good in PPR with at least six catches in 4-of-7 games.
- Austin Hooper (at TB): Jacob Tamme is out and Hooper had five targets last week.
We still hope Ertz can turn things around this season and start helping Fantasy owners, but he's struggling now and not worth trusting in the majority of leagues. In his past four games, Ertz has seven Fantasy points combined in a standard league, and he's still searching for his first touchdown of the year. He's not even getting enough targets to warrant starting with only 13 in his past four outings, and the Giants have only allowed one tight end to score this year, which was Rudolph in Week 4. Ertz needs to be productive over a few games before Fantasy owners can consider using him in the majority of leagues.
Thomas has scored in each of the past two games against Oakland and Tennessee, but he's done little else with six catches for 48 yards combined over that span. Still, the touchdowns have been nice because eight Fantasy points in a standard league, which is what he's scored each week, has made him a relevant option. But this week, Thomas should be shut down because of the matchup with the Chiefs. Kansas City, behind safety Eric Berry, is dominant against tight ends, and Jesse James scored the lone touchdown for a tight end against the Chiefs in Week 4. Kansas City has allowed just four touchdowns to tight ends going back to last season, and none have scored more than seven Fantasy points in a standard league over that span. We expect Thomas to struggle in this matchup, and he's not worth starting in most formats.
We expected Doyle to struggle last week against the Chiefs, and of course he did with two catches for 36 yards on three targets. He should play better this week, but it will be hard to start him in most formats with Dwayne Allen (ankle) expected to return from a two-game absence. If Allen were to miss this game then I like Doyle as a starting Fantasy option this week because this isn't a daunting matchup against the Packers. They've only allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends, but they haven't faced a quality opponent since Week 3 with games against the Giants, Cowboys, Bears (Brian Hoyer broke his arm, which hurt Zach Miller) and Falcons. Doyle only has one game with double digits in Fantasy points when Allen has been healthy, so his value is significantly lowered this week against the Packers if Allen plays.
There are actually some things working in Ebron's favor this week. He's coming off his best game of the season at Houston with seven catches for 79 yards on 10 targets, which are all season highs. He also did well against the Vikings last year with 10 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in two games, and Minnesota just allowed Miller to catch seven passes for 88 yards on 10 targets in Week 8. But the Vikings also have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end, including matchups with Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen and Miller. And Miller's eight points is the most Minnesota has allowed to an opposing tight end. Ebron also has just one touchdown in five games this year, which was Week 1 at the Colts, and he might be limited with his production in this matchup. He's a low-end starter at best in standard leagues, but his value is higher in PPR since he does have three games this year with at least five catches. Vikings safety Andrew Sedejo (ankle) is also expected to return this week, which is bad news for Ebron.
Dolphins (vs. NYJ)
- Week 9 projected stats: 9.6 FPTS
The Dolphins DST hasn't played well this season, but they get a great matchup with the Jets at home off a bye. Miami only has three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, and the Dolphins have allowed at least 22 points a game in four of the past five games. But the Jets allow the most Fantasy points to opposing DSTs, and four teams in the past six outings against the Jets have scored at least 14 Fantasy points in a standard league. The Dolphins DST is a great streaming option this week.
- Ravens (vs. PIT): BAL getting healthy on defense and Ben Roethlisberger could be hobbled.
- Lions (at MIN): MIN has allowed 11 sacks in the past two games at PHI and at CHI.
- Cowboys (at CLE): If Cody Kessler starts then the DAL defense has a chance to make plays.
Titans (at SD)
- Week 9 projected stats: 10.8 FPTS
The Titans DST was a letdown in Week 8 against Jacksonville with no interceptions and just two sacks, and they only scored six Fantasy points in a standard league. Tennessee had a great defensive performance at Miami in Week 5 with 18 Fantasy points in a standard league, but the Titans should struggle this week against the Chargers. San Diego has allowed at least 14 Fantasy points in a standard league to opposing DST units in the past four games, but two of those were against the Broncos. As long as the Chargers can limit the turnovers and sacks you should expect minimal production from the Titans this week.
The Jaguars come into this game allowing the most Fantasy points to opposing kickers, which makes Santos an attractive option this week in all leagues. He's done a nice in his past three games against Oakland, New Orleans and Indianapolis with an average of 9.7 Fantasy points in a standard league over that span. Jacksonville has allowed five kickers in a row to make at least two field goals and three in a row to make at least three. No kicker has scored fewer than eight Fantasy points against the Jaguars, and the Chiefs offense shouldn't slow down even with Foles starting for the injured Alex Smith. Santos should be the next kicker to thrive against the Jaguars this week.
- Will Lutz (at SF): He's been great indoors. Now he has to play well outside.
- Caleb Sturgis (at NYG): Four kickers have made at least three field goals vs. NYG.
- Ryan Succop (at SD): He's made five field goals in his past two games.
Gano just had his best game of the season in Week 8 against the Cardinals at home with three field goals and three extra points for 14 Fantasy points in a standard league. Maybe that performance will spur him on for the rest of the year because he's struggled prior to that outing with just one game with more than eight Fantasy points in his first six contests. He's been bad on the road this year with an average of seven Fantasy points in three games, and the Rams are among the stingiest teams to opposing kickers. Chandler Catanzaro in Week 4 is the lone kicker to make multiple field goals against Los Angeles, and no kicker has scored more than seven Fantasy points against the Rams. Gano should be considered a streaming option most weeks, and this could be a bad week to count on him as a starter.
Full Disclosure from Week 8
Devontae Booker did fine as our Start of the Week against San Diego, but he left plenty of production on the field. He dealt with a shoulder injury that cost him some playing time, and he lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line. He still finished with 12 Fantasy points, but he might have scored 20 in a standard league.
Some of our start suggestions who did well, including sleepers, were Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Jacquizz Rodgers, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Jonathan Stewart, Michael Crabtree, Donte Moncrief, Stefon Diggs, Quincy Enunwa, Tyler Eifert and Cameron Brate. We also had the No. 1 kicker in Will Lutz, the No. 1 DST in the Panthers and Carr was the No. 1 quarterback.
Our best sit recommendations were Philip Rivers and Kelvin Benjamin, but we missed on other start suggestions like Russell Wilson, Latavius Murray and Doug Baldwin. And there were some big failures on a few players in the sit column.
For example, Blake Bortles, Carson Palmer, Jordan Howard, Mike Gillislee, Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Gates and Zach Miller all played better than expected. Kudos if you started those players in Week 8.
For Week 9, we expect Dak Prescott to deliver as the Start of the Week, and he should be one of the many predictions we get right this week.
Start of the Week: Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos
- Fantasy points: 12
- Position rank: 14
Recommended starts who made us look good
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
- Fantasy points: 43
- Position rank: 1
Matt Forte, RB, Jets
- Fantasy points: 21
- Position rank: 2
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
- Fantasy points: 16
- Position rank: 1
Recommended sits who made us look good
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
- Fantasy points: 16
- Position rank: 19
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers
- Fantasy points: 7
- Position rank: 40
DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins
- Fantasy points: 4
- Position rank: 55
Recommended starts who made us look bad
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
- Fantasy points: 9
- Position rank: 26
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
- Fantasy points: 6
- Position rank: 30
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
- Fantasy points: 5
- Position rank: 45
Recommended sits who made us look bad
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
- Fantasy points: 35
- Position rank: 4
Jordan Howard, RB, Bears
- Fantasy points: 25
- Position rank: 1
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles
- Fantasy points: 12
- Position rank: 15