Fantasy Football Week 9: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Some days you're the windshield. Other days you're the bug.
Quite a few fantasy managers were the latter in Week 8. At quarterback, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles posted dud performances. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hit folks who started him with the dreaded goose-egg.
Never mind the broken foot that ended the 2021 regular season (at least) of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
Those down performances and injuries left many a fantasy manager reeling, thrust into a must-win situation lest the fantasy campaign gets away from them. There's not much margin for error. Every lineup decision and fantasy point is all the more important.
The point of this column is to aid those managers in making those decisions the right ones.
Just as I do every week here at Bleacher Report, I have reviewed fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and picked out some that should help both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in setting their Week 9 lineups.
Let's get to work.
The Brady Bye Blues
Pick up Taysom Hill or Tyrod (Taylor) to replace Brady? -- @DarthVath
As it turns out, Tom Brady of the Buccaneers won't be the only fantasy-relevant quarterback sitting out Week 9. As ESPN's Rob Demovsky reported, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will also be a spectator Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.
As if fantasy managers didn't have enough problems.
That leaves quite a few teams in the lurch this week. But of all the positions in fantasy football, a hole at quarterback is the easiest to plug in the short-term.
Back in the long-ago days of Week 1, Tyrod Taylor of the Houston Texans opened some eyes with a solid performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars—291 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, two touchdowns and a top-12 fantasy finish at his position.
We haven't seen Taysom Hill serve as more than a gadget option for the New Orleans Saints in 2021, but with Drew Brees sidelined last year with injured ribs, Hill made four starts under center. His passing numbers admittedly weren't great, but thanks to his rushing ability, he posted mid-tier QB1 numbers.
This question may answer itself. While Hill is expected to clear concussion protocol ahead of Sunday's tilt against the Atlanta Falcons, Taylor (hamstring) has yet to officially get the greenlight for Houston's trip to Miami.
Even if Taylor does get the nod, though, it doesn't change the call here. Sean Payton has already demonstrated that he can craft a game plan that caters to what Hill does best, and the 31-year-old has a substantially better supporting cast around him than Taylor.
Hill's a decent (if unspectacular) fill-in against the Falcons who can get fantasy managers past this bump in the road.
The Call: Taysom Hill
Bye Week Blues, Part 2
I'm in a PPR league. With D'Andre Swift on bye I need a running back to start. I have Tony Pollard, Javonte Williams and just picked up Boston Scott…really can't get a feel on the situation. What do you think? -- @mattlank92
Who knew we would reach a point in 2021 where fantasy managers actually miss players for the Detroit Lions?
It's a wild world.
All three of the running backs listed here have demonstrated significant fantasy upside. Boston Scott of the Philadelphia Eagles scored a pair of touchdowns in last week's rout of the Lions. Rookie Javonte Williams of the Denver Broncos has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys has topped 100 total yards twice this year despite serving as a complementary back behind Ezekiel Elliott.
But that last part is the problem. All of these backs are involved in committee backfields. Scott had just 12 carries last week in Detroit. Williams has yet to have a 15-carry game in the pros. Pollard has seen his workload decrease in each of the last two games.
Given that uncertainty about how many touches these backs will get, their respective matchups take on added importance. And in that regard, there's a clear "winner." Scott and the Eagles host a Los Angeles Chargers team allowing a league-high 5.1 yards per carry and the fifth-most points-per-reception fantasy points per game to running backs.
The newest addition to the backfield gets the nod here.
The Call: Boston Scott
What Can Brown Do for You?
Hey! Thank you for the content each week. Full PPR question…which 2 would you play? A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson or Stefon Diggs? Thanks! – JLStroud15
First, you're welcome. Glad the column has been of service.
Second, really? Must be nice to have three top-12 fantasy options to choose from at wide receiver each week. However, as I have said before, if you can't get all these players into your lineup every week, then you should dangle one as trade bait to upgrade another position.
With that said, to the question at hand.
Given everything that has happened this week, A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans has to be in the lineup. With running back Derrick Henry most likely out for the year, Brown is easily Tennessee's top offensive weapon. He has caught at least eight passes, topped 130 receiving yards and found the end zone in each of the last two games. And it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where the Titans fall behind the Los Angeles Rams and are forced to the air.
From there, the waters muddy up quite a bit. Stefon Diggs' production is down considerably relative to last season, but the seventh-year veteran has been heating up, as Diggs has scored in each of the past two weeks. Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings was a top-10 fantasy wideout over the first six weeks of the 2021 season, but his first game post-bye was his worst stat line of the year.
It's matchups that break this tie. Jefferson and the Vikings face a Baltimore Ravens team allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers, while Diggs and the Bills square off against a Jacksonville Jaguars club giving up the eighth-most.
Play the numbers and roll with Diggs in the second spot.
The Calls: A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs
Mourning the Loss of the King
King Henry replacement needed. Do I go with (Jeremy) McNichols, Chuba (Hubbard) or Chase Edmonds to fill the void this week? -- @cd00421
You had to know a question like this was coming.
The sad reality is that there is no "replacing" Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. Henry was leading the league in rushing and leading all running backs in fantasy points by a wide margin. The foot injury that ended his regular season is a season-killer for most teams.
Still, you gotta keep going.
Chase Edmonds of the Cardinals is the nominal starter in Arizona. However, his workload split with James Conner has been fluid this season, and Edmonds has less than 10 carries in two of the last three games.
Then there's Jeremy McNichols, who has the unenviable task of trying to keep the Tennessee ground game going. Yes, McNichols is more passing-down scat-back than bellcow. The Titans also signed Adrian Peterson and D'Onta Foreman this week.
But Peterson and Foreman were on the street just a few days ago. This week at least, McNichols should lead the Titans in touches by a sizable margin. And with Tennessee likely to be playing catch-up against the Rams, a bunch of garbage-time dump-offs (and PPR fantasy points) are a real possibility.
Still, there's more than a little uncertainty with McNichols. And uncertainty ain't good in fantasy football.
Chuba Hubbard's days of fantasy relevance could be numbered—per ESPN's David Newton, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has been designated to return from injured reserve and could play Sunday against the New England Patriots. Once McCaffrey returns, Hubbard's fantasy value goes buh-bye.
But there's no guarantee that McCaffrey will be back, and Hubbard has averaged over 19 carries a game over the past four weeks with scores in two of those games.
Provided McCaffrey doesn't ruin it, enjoy Hubbard's last hurrah as a starter.
The Call: Chuba Hubbard
An Easy and Not-so-Easy Call
Need a WR2 and a Flex. Jamison Crowder, Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones and Eli Mitchell. Full PPR. -- @patsnation20
Might as well get the easy part of this one out of the way first.
Elijah Mitchell of the San Francisco 49ers is a slam dunk in the flex spot here. As has been mentioned numerous times in this column, it's usually a good idea to defer to backs in flex spots for one simple reason: They touch the ball more than wide receivers.
That Mitchell has eclipsed 100 rushing yards and scored a touchdown in each of the past two games makes the decision that much easier...provided he plays through his rib injury.
The wide receiver call isn't as easy. The first "pass" has to be Marvin Jones Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who should change his name to Waldo. Since starting the season hot, it seems that Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence has struggled to connect with Jones, who has eclipsed 40 yards just once in the last four weeks. He also draws a brutal matchup with Buffalo's league-leading pass defense.
Veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder caught eight passes for 84 yards last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, but counting on the Jets to move the ball two weeks in a row feels like asking for trouble.
Christian Kirk of the Cardinals is by no means a sure thing—the 24-year-old has topped five catches just once this year. Over the last three weeks, though, Kirk has averaged over 14 PPR points per game, and his ceiling is significantly higher than that playing in Arizona's explosive offense.
He gets the nod, with Crowder as injury insurance for Mitchell.
The Calls: Elijah Mitchell, Christian Kirk
A Perflexing Predicament
Thanks for the advice as always! 12-team full PPR. Need 2 FLEX…(Chase) Claypool, (Michael) Pittman Jr., (Emmanuel) Sanders, Michael Carter Jr., (Elijah) Mitchell. -- @Klutch26
If you're wondering if I really am so shallow that all it takes is a little buttering me up to get a question published, then you can stop wondering.
I absolutely am.
The first of these two spots is an easy call. As was already mentioned, Elijah Mitchell has topped the century mark and scored a touchdown in two straight games. He's the unquestioned lead back for one of the best running teams in the league, and while the Arizona Cardinals aren't a good matchup for running backs, the Green Bay Packers showed last week that opponents could run on the Redbirds.
Mitchell didn't practice Wednesday with injured ribs, but head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated there is hope he'll practice later in the week. If he's active Sunday, he gets a spot.
A couple of the wide receivers can be ruled out relatively quickly. Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a vertical threat for a team that can't push the ball down the field. Emmanuel Sanders of the Buffalo Bills has had his moments this season, but a Week 8 donut puts the veteran pass-catcher on the "no thanks" list against the Jaguars.
That leaves two players for one spot. Indianapolis Colts receiver Michael Pittman has been on quite the roll of late, with 14 catches for 191 yards and three scores the last two weeks. New York Jets running back Michael Carter hasn't been sitting on his hands either. He's gone over 100 total yards each of the past two weeks and exploded for 172 yards and a score last week.
Carter has also averaged over 20 touches the past two games, including 17 receptions. It's that workload (and the 23 times he has been targeted by Mike White in seven quarters of action) that wins the day here, with Pittman serving as insurance if Mitchell can't go.
The Calls: Michael Carter, Elijah Mitchell
Please help! I badly need a W this week. Who should I start at WR between Julio (Jones), (Hunter) Renfrow and (Jerry) Jeudy? Also who should I start at flex out of those listed above, Darrel Williams, CEH (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and (Jeremy) McNichols? I'm down bad. -- @lordnacho
We'll start this question at the end.
This isn't a terrible group of wide receivers, but it's not a group strong enough to merit consideration over a running back in a flex spot. Which running back depends on the Week 9 playing status of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
If Edwards-Helaire, who is eligible to return from the injured reserve, plays this week, he will likely split time with Darrel Williams, robbing both of much of their fantasy value. If that's the case, then McNichols is the play since his Week 9 workload may well be his largest this year.
However, if Edwards-Helaire sits one more week, Williams should be in line for 15-plus touches, a number he has hit in two of the last three games.
The wide receiver call is a bit trickier. Julio Jones is the biggest name, but between injuries and lack of targets, he hasn't done much in his first season with the Titans. Hunter Renfrow of the Las Vegas Raiders could see a bump in targets this week after Henry Ruggs III was released, but he's not an especially high-ceiling fantasy option, failing to exceed 13 PPR points in each of the last three weeks.
The best combination of ceiling and floor among the receivers is Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos. Jeudy's 4/39/0 line on four targets last week against Washington isn't impressive, but it was his first game back from injury and a contest in which Teddy Bridgewater only completed 19 passes for 213 yards.
Denver will have to throw more in Dallas this week, and Jeudy should be the primary beneficiary.
The Calls: Darrel Williams, Jerry Jeudy
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
What QB/WR "stack" offers the best value in this week's DraftKings Fantasy Football Millionaire contest? -- @DFSSOS
Ah, the joys of "stacking" a quarterback and pass-catcher in an effort to double-up on touchdowns. It's the friend of DFS players everywhere—just ask the folks who have ridden the Matthew Stafford/Cooper Kupp stack to a nice payday all season long.
Sadly, that stack isn't available for this week's Fantasy Football Millionaire contest, as they play on Sunday Night Football. But there's another one that could offer a similarly robust return on investment.
The stack starts with Lamar Jackson [DK DFS VALUE: $7,300], who comes out of his bye week to face the Minnesota Vikings. Jackson has had some huge games this season, posting 37.26 DK points in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs and 45.88 points in Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts. Jackson's rushing ability makes him a threat to post gaudy stats each and every week, and this week he faces a Vikings team that has allowed the ninth-most DK points to quarterbacks.
The second half of this stack is wide receiver Marquise Brown [DK DFS VALUE: $6,000]. Two weeks ago against the Bengals, Brown was targeted a whopping 14 times, catching five passes for 80 yards and a score. It marked the third time Brown has hit double-digits in targets, the fifth time this season that he found the end zone and the fifth time he has posted at least 19 DK points.
Throw in a Vikings defense allowing the seventh-most DK points to wideouts this year, and the table is set for another big day.
The Calls: Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown
As is the case every week, we'll put a bow on this week's Start/Sit column by pounding out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.
Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.
Jerry Jeudy or Courtland Sutton in full PPR? -- @Quentinkeene
This is actually a pretty close call—as Jerry Jeudy works his way back into the mix with the Broncos, it won't be even a little surprising to see him overtake Courtland Sutton as Denver's top wide receiver. However, that day isn't here quite yet, and Sutton is a good bet to lead Denver in most receiving categories against the Dallas Cowboys.
Who would you flex in a non-PPR league…Latavius (Murray), Jordan Howard or (Rashod) Bateman? -- @aburgosv
Without the benefit of PPR, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman can be ruled out here fairly quickly. At that point it essentially all boils down to the status of Latavius Murray's balky ankle—if the veteran tailback is a go Sunday against the Vikings, then he should serve as Baltimore's No. 1 back. That slots him ahead of Howard, whose fantasy value will hinge largely on his ability to find the end zone against the Chargers.
Allen Robinson, (Brandon) Aiyuk, (Kenny) Golladay or Mecole (Hardman)? Missed hard on my second WR in drafting. -- @father4boys
Given how long Golladay has been sidelined, the Giants wideout is hard to trust in Week 9 even if he does play—he's out. So is Aiyuk, who spent most of the first half of the season as an afterthought in the 49ers offense. Hardman has double-digit PPR points in two of the last three games, but his target share tends to fluctuate a lot. That leaves Robinson, who may be the most disappointing wideout in fantasy this season. Roll the dice on the best player of the lot and hope "ARob" finally wakes up.
Josh Jacobs or Michael Carter half-PPR? @armaansood
As was already mentioned, I like Carter this week—the rookie has emerged as an important part of the Jets offense. But with Henry Ruggs no longer in Las Vegas the Raiders may lean even more heavily on the ground game this week against a New York Giants team that has surrendered the 12th-most fantasy points per game to running backs in 2021. Jacobs has the edge here.
Flex spot half-PPR. Allen Robinson, Javonte Williams, Adrian Peterson? -- @jackfitchie
Given Robinson's struggles this year, this call bois down to the two running backs—the rookie vs. the 36-year-old. Had Peterson had a couple weeks to learn the Tennessee offense, this might be a different story. But his role will likely be limited in the Titans offense in Week 9. That gives the edge to Williams despite a carry-share with Melvin Gordon in Denver.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike White or Tyrod (Taylor) to start for Brady? -- @Moe98
Mike White feels like a trap—the Jets quarterback was fantastic last week against Cincinnati, but he's also, you know, Mike White. If Taylor does make his return this week against the Miami Dolphins, his combination of rushing ability and a favorable matchup makes him a tempting play. If he doesn't play though, Garoppolo should be a decent (if low-ceiling) fantasy fill-in against the Arizona Cardinals.
Who to play at flex, PPR…Zack Moss or Tee Higgins? -- @ozziedog
Deferring to running backs in flex spots is generally a good idea, but there are exceptions. Higgins has had a major role in the Cincinnati offense of late, piling up 21 targets over the past two weeks and at least 13 PPR points a game. Meanwhile, Moss hasn't had 12 carries in a game since Week 4. The Bengals wideout is the better play here…especially at a point per catch.
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Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.
Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.