This is not going to be an easy week for many fantasy football owners.
Bye weeks are ravaging Week 9 lineups, forcing former fringe options to take the mold of stars. Six teams are taking Sunday off, and that includes the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions.
Maybe this is just coming from a bitter writer who must replace his two star running backs and three wide receivers, but this weekend stinks.
The top rankings at each position won't look nearly as loaded as usual. That means owners can't be as picky. If you have plenty of names sprinkled across these lists, you're in golden shape for the weekend.
If not, join the rest of us forced to sweat out Donald Brown and Golden Tate for the weekend.
|1||Drew Brees||New York Jets|
|2||Aaron Rodgers||Chicago Bears|
|3||Tony Romo||Minnesota Vikings|
|4||Cam Newton||Atlanta Falcons|
|5||Philip Rivers||Washington Redskins|
|6||Russell Wilson||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|7||Robert Griffin III||San Diego Chargers|
|8||Andrew Luck||Houston Texans|
|9||Terrelle Pryor||Philadelphia Eagles|
|10||Matt Ryan||Carolina Panthers|
Andrew Gould's Rankings
If you're upset that you can't start Chad Henne this week in a league with one starting quarterback, it might be time to shift your focus to fantasy basketball or hockey.
But from what we're working with, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers you're automatically starting with confidence regardless of the matchup. Move on to the running backs portion if you own either of those two.
After that, where did all of the top quarterbacks go? Although Tony Romo has not posted huge numbers outside of his monster performance against Denver, he's a strong play against Minnesota's No. 29-ranked passing defense. Cam Newton has compiled eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing) through his past three games without firing a single interception, so play him against Atlanta's tumbling defense.
Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck all face rough matchups against premier defenses, but it's hard to imagine owners having a better alternative on hand. But Jake Locker, who gained 326 passing yards and two touchdowns in his return last weekend, is an interesting Plan B who fell just shy of the top 10.
|1||Jamaal Charles||Buffalo Bills|
|2||Adrian Peterson||Dallas Cowboys|
|3||LeSean McCoy||Oakland Raiders|
|4||Matt Forte||Green Bay Packers|
|5||Eddie Lacy||Chicago Bears|
|6||Marshawn Lynch||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|7||Chris Johnson||St. Louis Rams|
|8||Alfred Morris||San Diego Chargers|
|9||Ryan Mathews||Washington Redskins|
|10||Le'Veon Bell||New England Patriots|
So running back really stinks this year.
Knowshon Moreno, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew and Week 8 breakout Andre Ellington will all take a seat this weekend, creating more uncertainty at an already shallow position.
That makes Eddie Lacy a must-start after receiving at least 20 carries in his last four games, including his 94-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Vikings last Sunday night on a career-high 29 rushes. The opportunities will keep coming as the Packers look to insert the run to mask their depleted receiving core.
New England has allowed 130.2 rushing yards per game, which is worse than every team other than the Jaguars. Le'Veon Bell has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry through four games, but Pittsburgh wants to run, especially in the red zone. If you have Bell, start him.
Washington possesses the NFC's worst defense, while Ryan Mathews has quietly orchestrated two straight 100-yard games. After years of falling short, Mathews is delivering as a post-hype sleeper for San Diego.
If Arian Foster can't suit up and Ben Tate can, Tate vaults up to top-10 consideration. Should Foster be available, he should be played despite his struggles.
|1||Dez Bryant||Minnesota Vikings|
|2||Jordy Nelson||Chicago Bears|
|3||Josh Gordon||Baltimore Ravens|
|4||Brandon Marshall||Green Bay Packers|
|5||Pierre Garcon||San Diego Chargers|
|6||Antonio Brown||New England Patriots|
|7||DeSean Jackson||Oakland Raiders|
|8||Andre Johnson||Indianapolis Colts|
|9||Keenan Allen||Washington Redskins|
|10||Steve Smith||Atlanta Falcons|
Calvin Johnson's absence gives another top wideout one week to battle for the No. 1 spot.
This isn't exactly what Dez Bryant had in mind, but he gets the temporary nod as this week's top fantasy wide receiver going against a Minnesota defense that was torn apart by Jordy Nelson last week. Speaking of Nelson, he is now Rodgers' undisputed top target and should continue to flourish against Chicago's No. 27 pass defense.
Jay Cutler's absence robs Alshon Jeffery of top-10 consideration, but Brandon Marshall is too good to significantly drop down the table. Besides, Josh McCown looked serviceable in mop-up duty against Washington.
This top 10 looks much shakier than usual without Johnson, Victor Cruz, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Denver's trio of star wideouts and A.J. Green (who already played on Thursday). That gives Keenan Allen and Pierre Garcon clearance up the ranks in what should be a shootout with two leaky defenses.
Antonio Brown has caught eight passes per game, putting him on pace to finish the season with 128 receptions. He's a point-per-reception stud whose stability is nice to have during a week like this one.
|1||Jimmy Graham||New York Jets|
|2||Antonio Gates||Washington Redskins|
|3||Rob Gronkowski||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|4||Jason Witten||Minnesota Vikings|
|5||Jordan Reed||San Diego Chargers|
|6||Jordan Cameron||Baltimore Ravens|
|7||Greg Olsen||Atlanta Falcons|
|8||Martellus Bennett||Green Bay Packers|
|9||Tony Gonzalez||Carolina Panthers|
|10||Kyle Rudolph||Dallas Cowboys|
The NFL's top-two tight ends are both listed as questionable, so that's fun.
Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) was limited in Thursday's practice, according to ESPN.com's Field Yates. Jimmy Graham, who caught two touchdowns in limited action last Sunday, is still suffering from a partially torn plantar fascia. Ask anyone who sat Graham last week; these guys stay in your lineup until they're officially ruled out.
Antonio Gates and Jordan Reed will benefit from the Redskins-Chargers matchup that is poised to become Sunday's biggest shootout.
Green Bay and Dallas reside near the bottom of fantasy points allowed to tight ends (via ESPN), so Martellus Bennett and Kyle Rudolph can fill the void left by Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas.
Coby Fleener and Tim Wright could potentially be top-10 tight ends during the second half, but neither Fleener against Houston nor Wright at Seattle is a promising play this weekend.
|1||Seattle Seahawks||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills|
|3||New Orleans Saints||New York Jets|
|4||Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons|
|5||Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams|
|6||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears|
|7||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans|
|8||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|9||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings|
|10||Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns|
Anyone who has played the "Who is Jacksonville facing?" game must develop another plan for Week 9.
After Kansas City and Seattle, there are few defenses owners can ride with confidence this weekend. No longer a pushover on defense, Rob Ryan's Saints are worth a look against his brother's Jets. New Orleans has collected 15 takeaways, while Geno Smith has already surrendered 13 interceptions.
Tennessee, whose defense ranks 13th with 337 total yards per game, goes up against Kellen Clemens, so that could be something.
It's weird to perceive New England vs. Pittsburgh as a fantasy-friendly matchup for defenses, but each offense is struggling, making a low-scoring affair a very feasible outcome.
|1||Dan Bailey||Minnesota Vikings|
|2||Garrett Hartley||New York Jets|
|3||Stephen Gostkowski||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|4||Steven Hauschka||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|5||Nick Novak||Washington Redskins|
|6||Mason Crosby||Chicago Bears|
|7||Adam Vinatieri||Houston Texans|
|8||Kai Forbath||San Diego Chargers|
|9||Justin Tucker||Cleveland Browns|
|10||Robbie Gould||Green Bay Packers|
Does anyone have a hat handy?
Since kickers are so dependent on their teammates, projecting their fantasy outputs is a near impossible chore. You're just hoping to get lucky with someone fortunate enough to receive a bunch of field-goal opportunities.
Dan Bailey, who has kicked eight field goals of 40 yards or more, seems like a solid bet against Minnesota. Nick Novak, Mason Crosby and Garrett Hartley are also playing for top offenses.
Seattle could hit the fantasy sweet spot against Tampa Bay, moving the ball well but not dominating enough to finish with multiple touchdowns. Steven Hauschka could kick a healthy portion of field goals in a low-scoring win.