Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 9
Football is in full swing as we now approach week nine. That means another week for fantasy football and to look at the best (and worst matchups). With that, let’s dive in and look at the players to start and sit for this weekend.
Recapping last week
Truth be told, it wasn’t a good week overall for our picks. Daniel Jones did finish inside the top-15 but Kirk Cousins finished outside the top-18 while Ryan Tannehill had a top-10 performance. Khalil Herbert managed to just squeak in a top-36 game but Kenneth Gainwell fell flat in a prime spot with an outing outside the top-50 but Myles Gaskin predictably struggled with 55 scoreless yards despite 15 touches. Unbelievably, Emmanuel Sanders laid a goose egg while Jarvis Landry finished just inside the top-50 but so did Jaylen Waddle. While Hunter Henry had a 33-yard catch, that was all he did, and C.J. Uzomah fell back down to Earth but Jared Cook finished outside the top-24. With that, let’s move on to week nine!
Teams on bye: Lions, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Washington Football Team
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 9 QB’s
Dolphins vs. Texans
ESPN Starting Percentage: 11.4%
Even with the Dolphins’ season in a full tail-spin at this point, Tagavailoa has been able to put up some solid games for those who have him in fantasy football. While he has four interceptions in his last three games since returning from injury, he has seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) as well. He has at least 275 or more passing yards in two of those three games and has at least 22 rushing yards or a touchdown in two games as well. He and the Dolphins have a “get-right” game in week nine against the lowly Texans. Houston has given up the fifth-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. They’ve also given up at least 260 yards and three touchdowns in each of their last two matchups. With DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Jaylen Waddle all healthy now, Tua should be in-line for a top-15 performance in week nine.
Vikings vs. Ravens
ESPN Starting Percentage: 43.9%
While Cousins hit-and-miss in week eight, he gets another plus matchup this weekend against the Ravens. Baltimore has given up four performances of at least 340+ passing yards and two touchdowns. Outside of Justin Herbert’s week six performance, the only quarterbacks that Baltimore could slow down were Jared Goff and Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock. Prior to Cousins’ week eight stinker, he had four performances of 275+ passing yards and also had 2+ passing touchdowns in four games while only having two total interceptions on the season. In a game that has “shootout” potential written all over it, we should expect him to throw closer to the 38+ times (like he had in four of his six games). He has top-12 potential this week.
Eagles vs. Chargers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 72.4%
It would be a bold move to sit Hurts, the QB4 this season, in any game. But if there was a game to do this in so far, it would be this one. Hurts is coming off his worst game this season in fantasy football with only 103 passing yards and 71 rushing yards with zero touchdowns against the Lions. He now faces a much tougher matchup with the Chargers, who have given up the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve only given up two 250+ passing yard performances and only given up 2+ passing touchdowns in three games. Even worse, they’ve only given up more than 17 rushing yards on two occasions while giving up zero rushing touchdowns. With only Tom Brady being the biggest viable quarterback on bye, it’s possible to look at a streaming option this week versus Hurts in a really tough matchup.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 9 RB’s
Dolphins vs. Texans
ESPN Starting Percentage: 28.4%
Understandably so, Gaskin is extremely tough to trust. He has three performances of 10+ points in half-PPR but also has four single-digit games this year as well. However, his usage in the offense as of late is encouraging. With Malcolm Brown on injured reserve, Gaskin has only been contending with Salvon Ahmed for touches. In the last two weeks, Gaskin has 34 touches (27 carries, seven receptions) while Ahmed only has 17 in that time. Gaskin saw double the targets (eight to four) and nearly double the carries (27 to 14). Gaskin appears to be the leader in this group for touches. He now has a good matchup against the Texans, who have given up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. In the last three weeks, they have given up five total touchdowns and allowed five running backs to go for 50+ scrimmage yards. Gaskin is seeing more work and has a very good matchup, so he should have top-24 upside for those without D’Andre Swift, Leonard Fournette, and Antonio Gibson.
Eagles vs. Chargers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 1.2%
When Miles Sanders went down with his ankle injury, it was expected that Scott would handle some of the early-down/between-the-20s work with Kenneth Gainwell seeing a lot of receiving work and some goal-line touches as well. It didn’t shake out that way as Scott started and handled almost all of the touches until after he scored his first touchdown. He would then split touches with Jordan Howard from that point forward with Gainwell mixing in when the game was well out of range by that point. Scott would finish with 12 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns as the most productive Eagles’ running back. He now faces a Chargers’ defense that has given up six rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs over the last three games combined. The Chargers boast a strong pass defense with one of the worst rush defenses in the league. Scott should exploit this as the 1A in the backfield with this game expecting to be closer than the 44-6 win over the Lions in week eight. Scott has low-end RB2 value in this game.
James Robinson/Carlos Hyde
Jaguars vs. Bills
ESPN Starting Percentage: 84.1%/0.4%
We are including both here as Robinson’s week nine status is up in the air after leaving the game this past weekend with a heel injury and is considered “day-to-day”. Robinson was being used as a bell-cow prior to this past game as he handled all of the carries from the running back position the week prior and had been doing very well (75+ scrimmage yards and at least one touchdown in each of the last four games). But regardless of whether Robinson suits up or Hyde takes the majority of work, this is a clear matchup to avoid for both of them. Outside of Derrick Henry’s 143-yard and three-touchdown performance in week six and Antonio Gibson’s fluke 73 run-and catch for a touchdown, they’ve shut down everybody. They’ve only allowed one running back (Myles Gaskin, week eight) to go for more than 50+ scrimmage yards all season outside of Henry and Gibson and have been a brick wall to every opponent’s running back group. Whether it be Robinson coming off a heel injury or Hyde handling the work (which is a big downgrade), it’s best to avoid the Jaguars’ running back room this weekend.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 9 WR’s
Steelers vs. Bears
ESPN Starting Percentage: 35.2%
While Claypool is the clear number three option in this Steelers’ offense behind Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris, that is still a valuable role to have. He was actually on the field more than Johnson in week eight (72 snaps to 68 for Johnson) and was playing an every-down role (97.2% snap share in week eight). The Steelers are trying to get creative with getting the ball in Claypool’s hands as he had two carries for 16 yards in addition to his four catches and 45 receiving yards. He and the Steelers are facing the Bears this weekend, who have given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season. They’ve given up five 50+ receiving yard performances to opposing wide receivers over the last three weeks along with five receiving touchdowns. We even saw Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both have 20+ half-PPR games against Chicago in week eight. Claypool has high-end WR3/FLEX appeal in this matchup.
Broncos vs. Cowboys
ESPN Starting Percentage: 23.3%
In his first game back after his serious ankle injury, Jeudy had a modest performance as he caught all four of his targets for 39 yards. Jeudy was only on the field for 72% of snaps in his first game back but saw just as many targets as Courtland Sutton and led the team in receptions. Jeudy will only see more playing time as he inches closer to 100% and now has a juicy matchup against the Cowboys in week nine. They’ve given up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season. They’ve allowed seven different wide receivers to go for 75+ receiving yards. Plus, if it weren’t for Kirk Cousins’ poor performance, they could’ve given up a lot more than the eight catches, 99 receiving yards, and one touchdown to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson combined. Plus, star cornerback Trevon Diggs is dealing with an ankle injury and even if he plays, may not be 100%. Jeudy will have weekly top-36 appeal but could flirt with top-24 projections this weekend.
Eagles vs. Chargers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 36.5%
Smith has all the talent in the world and is the clear number one wide receiver in this Eagles’ offense. His 23.1% target share paces every other wide receiver by almost 10% (Jalen Reagor is at 13.2%). However, the passing offense in Philadelphia is hard to pin down and makes it tough to trust someone like Smith week-in and week-out. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since week one and only has two 75+ receiving yard performances this season. He now gets the Chargers, who have given up the fewest fantasy points-per-game to opposing wide receivers this season. They’ve only given up three touchdowns to wide receivers this season and only allowed one to go for more than 75 yards. This is just not the matchup to hope Smith has another breakout performance.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 9 TE’s
Vikings vs. Ravens
ESPN Starting Percentage: 9.9%
This is more of a matchup play than actual trust in Conklin’s performance week-in and week-out. The Ravens have been completely unable to stop opposing tight ends as they have given up the most fantasy points per game to them this season. They have given up six receiving touchdowns to them and allowed four 50+ yard performances from them, including a 91-yard and two-touchdown game from C.J. Uzomah in week seven. To his credit, Conklin isn’t playing poorly. He’s seen at least five targets in four of his last five games and has at least 57 receiving yards in each of his last two games. Conklin is the perfect bye-week streamer for those without T.J. Hockenson (or just a tight end in general).
Chargers vs. Eagles
ESPN Starting Percentage: 24.8%
I recommended that fantasy managers bench Cook last week and I turned out to be right as he had only 25 scoreless yards on two receptions. He now has a strong matchup in week nine against the Eagles, who have given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season. They have given up at least 89 receiving yards and/or a touchdown to an opposing tight end in each of their last six games. Cook is seeing a decent amount of work as his 13.9% target share is 12th amongst all tight ends. He has at least five targets in each of his last three games as Mike Williams’ breakout season has slowed a bit and there is suddenly more work to go around. Cook is another very solid streaming option in week nine.
Rams vs. Titans
ESPN Starting Percentage: 56.6%
In spite of Matthew Stafford’s MVP-type season, Higbee has not been a major benefactor of this. After starting strong with 11 receptions, 116 yards, and one touchdown in his first three games, he has gone cold since. While he has at least four receptions in three of his last five games, he has only one touchdown during that time and hasn’t had more than 46 yards in a game. He now faces a Titans’ defense that has given up the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season. While the Titans have given up three touchdowns in the last four games to tight ends, only two tight ends have been able to get more than 25 receiving yards in a game against them all year. Higbee may need to be played due to the scarcity at the position but this might be a week to target a streaming option instead if possible.
Doug Moore is a fantasy football writer for Gridiron Experts. He has previously written for sites such as ESPN, SBNation, FFToday & Inside The Pylon. He also was the co-host for the highly-rated fantasy football podcast Overtime Ireland for several years. You can find him on Twitter at @DMooreNFL