While Week 9 marks the midway point of the NFL regular season, it is getting close to crunch time for fantasy footballers.
In most leagues, the championship is played in Week 16 and the playoffs start in Week 14.
That leaves only five weeks to make your run to get into the playoffs or improve your seeding.
Here are some players to consider starting in Week 9:
QB - Cam Newton, Panthers (at WAS)
Newton's sophomore campaign has gone much differently than his rookie season. In his defense, however, he has had a string of difficult defensive matchups lately. Over the past three weeks, he has faced the Seahawks, Cowboys and Bears. Those teams have three of the seven defenses that have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year.
Newton's fortunes may change this week as the Panthers face the Redskins, who have allowed a league-worst 314.3 passing yards per game and 19 touchdown passes.
RB - Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (at SD)
While it seems that it should be a no-brainer that Charles is listed as a "start," it's sometimes difficult for fantasy owners to ignore a completely ineffective performance the previous week. Inexplicably, Charles had a season-low five carries in Week 8 and totaled only four rushing yards. In fact, he ranked sixth on his own team in rushing last week.
All that said, Charles is one of the most talented running backs in the league. After his season-low three rushing yards in Week 2 against the league's worst rush defense (Buffalo), he exploded for 233 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 3.
Although I don't expect another 233-yard game, I do expect a bounce-back performance in Week 9.
RB - Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (at WAS)
Against the stingy Bears run defense, Stewart averaged only 2.5 yards per carry for a total of 42 rushing yards. Here's the more important number, however: 21.
The Daily Show had 21 touches (17 carries and four receptions). DeAngelo Williams had 11 carries, but Stewart should continue to get the larger share of the workload going forward and have the opportunity to gain 100 yards from scrimmage on weekly basis.
RB - Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (at NYG)
In back-to-back weeks, Dwyer has carried it 17 times and rushed for more than 100 yards. Although he was limited at practice on Thursday, he is expected to play on Sunday, according to Mike Bires of the Beaver County Times.
Even if both Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall return this week, Dwyer has been extremely productive in back-to-back games and should get the lion's share of carries, if able to play.
WR - Steve Smith, Panthers (at WAS)
Smith has three 100-yard games this season, including 118 yards against the Bears last week. He has more than 50 yards in every game this season, with the exception of Week 5 against Seattle (40 yards).
Although Smith has yet to score his first touchdown of the season, the Redskins have allowed a league-high 19 passing touchdowns as noted above.
WR - Denarius Moore, Raiders (vs TB)
Who is the only player to catch at least one touchdown pass in each of the past three weeks? Of course it's Moore (or I would have asked the question under a different player's name).
In six games this season, Moore has 26 receptions for 419 yards and four touchdowns. He's on pace to finish with a stat line of 65-1,048-10 in 15 games after missing the season opener.
This week, Moore and the Raiders receivers face the Bucs, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
WR - Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, Eagles (at NO)
While the Redskins and Bucs have allowed the second- and third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, respectively, the Eagles receivers have an even better fantasy matchup this week. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing receivers than the Saints.
Maclin has three consecutive games with at least five receptions, and Jackson has at least 58 receiving yards in all games but one this year. Against a defense as generous as the Saints, both receivers have the potential to have monster performances this week like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had last week.
TE - Greg Olsen, Panthers (vs WAS)
Olsen has had only three or less fantasy points in each of his past three matchups, but they were tough matchups, as noted above. As I noted above, Washington's pass defense is the league's friendliest. The Redskins have allowed a tight end to catch a touchdown pass in six of eight games this season. Olsen will break out of his slump and find the endzone this week.
Here are some players to consider sitting in Week 9:
QB - Philip Rivers, Chargers (vs KC)
On the list of most fantasy points at quarterback, Arizona's Kevin Kolb is 27th and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert is 29th. Guess who is 28th?
Of course, it's Rivers.
Rivers has back-to-back games with single-digit fantasy points and barely exceeds 10 fantasy points when you combine the two performances.
On a positive note for Rivers, however, the Chiefs have allowed multiple passing touchdowns every week except Week 5 to Baltimore.
RB - Donald Brown, Colts (vs MIA)
Returning from a knee scope before Week 6, Brown rushed 14 times for 80 yards against the Titans last week. This week, Brown has a tougher matchup against the Dolphins, who rank third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (82.0 per game).
RB - BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals (vs DEN)
With the exception of Week 1 against the Ravens, The Law Firm has averaged less than four yards per carry every week. Plus, he has not scored since Week 3. Although he has 16 carries or more in six of seven games, his only double-digit fantasy performance came in Week 1.
RB - Alex Green, Packers (vs ARI)
In the three games since Cedric Benson's foot injury, Green has carried the ball 20-plus times every week for a total of 64 attempts during that span. That's the good news.
The bad news is Green, and the Packers backfield in general, have had limited success. In fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers called out the team's running game this week. Rodgers said via Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "... I have to say the quality of [the runs] has not been anywhere where we’d like them."
WR - Torrey Smith, Ravens (at CLE)
In his first matchup against the Browns, Smith had a nice fantasy performance: six receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The difference this time around? Browns cornerback Joe Haden has returned from suspension in Week 6. Smith is just outside my top 30 fantasy wide receivers for Week 9.
WR - Kenny Britt, Titans (vs CHI)
Britt has three or less fantasy points in back-to-back games and in three of his past four games. In fact, he has had more than three fantasy points only twice this season. With a tough matchup against Charles Tillman and the Bears, I wouldn't expect much more than three fantasy points from Britt this week.
WR - Cecil Shorts, Jaguars (vs DET)
A player I suggested folks add in my waiver-wire post earlier in the week, Shorts has been productive in the past two weeks. In those two games, Shorts has 12 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown.
In his previous four games, however, Shorts had two receptions or less. Seven of his 20 receptions have been for 20-plus yards, but he is still a boom-or-bust option, especially with Gabbert throwing him the ball.
TE - Jermichael Finley, Packers (vs ARI)
In his past four games, Finley has nine receptions for 78 yards combined. Stated differently, he has one, one, three and two fantasy points, respectively, in his past four games.
Only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing tight ends than the Cardinals. Keep Finley on your bench.
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