Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 9
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another.
Without further ado, let's get onto the best and worst plays of the week. We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Josh Allen (vs. Seattle) - It's been a tale of two halves for Allen. After averaging 30.1 fantasy points per game through his first four games, Allen's average has dropped to just 16.1 over his last four. However, there's good reason to believe that Allen's in store for a monster Week 9 performance, and that's because he gets to face the Seattle Seahawks. To date, Seattle has surrendered the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks -- five passers have exceeded 21 points and three have topped 29. While Seattle *only* ranks fifth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, their opponents have a 1.84 pass-to-run ratio against them, good for highest in the league. In other words, Allen will be dropping back to pass plenty against a team that doesn't defend the pass well. Additionally, Seattle has allowed 194 yards and 4 touchdowns to quarterbacks on the ground, so Allen could be in for a stellar rushing game as well.
Tom Brady (vs. New Orleans) - For a number of different reasons, Brady has the potential to be one of the week's top starts in Week 9. First, there's the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are taking on the New Orleans Saints. Through eight weeks, the Saints have ceded the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and that includes allowing at least two touchdown passes to every signal-caller they've faced (five have totaled at least three scores). Second, there's the matter of the weapons Brady will have at his disposal for this game. Aside from Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Scotty Miller, the 43-year-old will also be able to throw to Antonio Brown, and, possibly, Chris Godwin. Now, that's a loaded arsenal.
Derek Carr (at LAC) - Carr is fresh off a complete dud against the Cleveland Browns, but that can be attributed to windy conditions in that game. In Week 9, Carr is in a perfect redemption spot against the Los Angeles Chargers. Only three teams have surrendered more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than the Chargers, as only one passer (Teddy Bridgewater in Week 3) recorded fewer than 15 fantasy points against them. In fact, last week, Drew Lock became the fourth quarterback in seven games to exceed 20.0 fantasy points against LA -- Lock had just one career game with more than 15 fantasy points coming in. In his five outings prior to Week 8, Carr had exceeded 20 fantasy points four times. He's a top streamer this week.
Drew Lock (at Atlanta) - Speaking of Drew Lock, he's also a recommended streaming option in Week 9. Lock has made nine complete starts in his career, but he's never had a matchup this enticing. The Atlanta Falcons come in ranking dead last in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and they've surrendered the second-most fantasy points per game to the position. Yes, Atlanta has been better of late, ceding just 18.8 fantasy points per contest to quarterbacks in their last four after allowing an average of 33.0 in their first four. That said, even during their four most recent contests, they still rank seventh-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. This is still a defense to target.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. Chicago) - Tannehill would likely find himself in the "sit" section most other weeks, but with the state of the quarterback position in Week 9, he's just a fade. The reason I'm fading Tannehill is that he's facing a Chicago Bears that's allowed the fewest fantasy points to the position and ranks third-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Those needing upside from their quarterback position should certainly look elsewhere, and Tannehill isn't likely to provide much of that in this spot. In their last 34 games, Chicago has allowed 20 or more fantasy points to just one quarterback. Drew Brees almost broke through that firewall in Week 8, though he too fell short, managing 19.6 fantasy points.
Teddy Bridgewater (at Kansas City) - Teddy has been a decent streamer in the right spots, but this is definitely not the right spot. To date, the Kansas City Chiefs rank second-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and they're allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Kansas City also ranks dead last in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, which explains why they've faced the sixth-lowest pass-to-run ratio despite their opposition constantly finding themselves in negative game scripts. This could be a game where the Carolina Panthers lean heavily on Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis, as the former looks likely to return.
Philip Rivers (vs. Baltimore) - Rivers has started stuffing the stat sheet over the last couple of weeks, as he's totaled 633 passing yards and 6 scores over his last two. However, those matchups were against two teams that are in the bottom-12 in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play -- the Baltimore Ravens are tied with the Bears for third-best in that category. Three passers have exceeded 15.7 fantasy points against Baltimore, though those three combined for 78 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground. Now, given the fact that Rivers likely couldn't beat a sloth in a race, we shouldn't be expecting much rushing production from him. This is not the week to insert him into your lineups.
James Conner (at Dallas) - The number of teams to allow more rushing yards to the running back position than the Dallas Cowboys? Zero. Dallas has also surrendered eight rushing scores to the position, which is tied for fourth-most in the league. Through Week 8, Dallas also ranks eighth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and no team has seen more rushes attempted against them. While Dallas' pass defense is nothing to write home about, they do, very much, funnel to the run. Conner has had at least 60 total yards and a score in five of his last six games, but he hasn't had a true ceiling game since Week 3. That should change this week -- the Cowboys have allowed five backs to total at least 15.7 half-PPR points since Week 4, and four of them managed at least 18.8.
Chase Edmonds (vs. Miami) - Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your newest run-funnel defense, the Miami Dolphins! While Miami ranks first (!!) in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, they're right around league average in the rushing counterpart of that metric. The Dolphins have faced quite a few porous run games (including the Patriots, Bills, Jets, and Rams), but they have surrendered some big-time performances to more capable backfields. James Robinson managed 27.9 half-PPR points against Miami, and Chris Carson totaled 23.5 -- even a barely-healthy Raheem Mostert racked up 119 total yards on this defense. When given opportunities, few backs have been better than Edmonds. Among the 70 backs with at least 25 carries this season, Edmonds ranks first in Rushing NEP per carry. Additionally, among the 33 running backs with at least 20 targets this year, Edmonds is third in Reception NEP per target. Kenyan Drake missed practice on Wednesday and should be considered iffy at best for Sunday's matchup, meaning that Edmonds could be in for a huge workload this week.
Justin Jackson (vs. Las Vegas) - Jackson has seen a snap share of 47% in two of his last three games, and he totaled exactly 20 touches in both of those contests. He could be headed for a similar workload in a delicious matchup this week. The Las Vegas Raiders come in ranking second-worst in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing backs. In seven games, six runners have totaled at least 12.7 half-PPR points against Las Vegas. Another plus is the fact that they've ceded the fifth-most receiving yards to the position, especially considering that Jackson has seen at least five targets in each of his last three outings.
Jerick McKinnon (vs. Green Bay) - Whether the San Francisco 49ers like it or not, they're going to have to use McKinnon early and often in their matchup with the Green Bay Packers. In this matchup, the Niners will be without George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson -- that's...an insane list. If they want to have any chance of keeping up with Green Bay, they're going to have to utilize McKinnon in the passing game. The good news for San Francisco is that the Packers have surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing backs. The even better news is that Green Bay has allowed the most receiving fantasy points to backs as well. This is a great spot for McKinnon, and it's tough to envision a scenario in which the Niners don't give him a sizable workload.
Ezekiel Elliott (vs. Pittsburgh) - Those who roster Zeke are probably not in a position to sit him, but expectations need to be kept in check. In half-PPR leagues, Elliott hasn't exceeded 12 fantasy points in three games, and he's likely to post another dud in Week 9. The Pittsburgh Steelers rank second-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the position. In fact, only one player (Miles Sanders in Week 5) has topped 14.7 half-PPR points against Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Taylor (vs. Baltimore) - It wasn't long ago that many were touting Taylor as a top-five running back for the rest of the season, and boy, that is not looking good right now. The rookie hasn't surpassed 14.4 half-PPR points since Week 2, and he managed just 4.1 in a salivating matchup with the Detroit Lions last week. Taylor played just 34% of snaps in that game, ceding significant playing time to the likes of Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. Taylor is said to be battling a "little bit" of an ankle injury, which doesn't help his outlook for Week 9. The Ravens have surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backfields, and they rank first in the league in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. If possible, keep Taylor on your bench this week.
Wayne Gallman and
Devonta Freeman (at Washington) - The Washington Football Team ranks sixth-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've also allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs they've faced. Even if one of these backs had the entire backfield to themselves, they'd still be a fade, but with Devonta Freeman back at practice and Alfred Morris still in the mix, this is a group I'd avoid entirely.
Tyler Lockett (at Buffalo) - Trying to guess whether it's going to be a Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf-week can be a pain in the ass, but all signs point to Week 9 leaning strongly in Lockett's favor. Though he's proven to be as close to matchup-proof as it gets, Metcalf will have square off with Tre'Davious White, one of the league's top shutdown corners. Meanwhile, both of the top outputs Buffalo has surrendered to wideouts this season have come to players who line up primarily in the slot. Look for Russell Wilson to take advantage of that matchup and feed Lockett in this one.
Justin Jefferson (vs. Detroit) - Speaking of titillating slot matchups, Justin Jefferson gets one against the Detroit Lions in Week 9. Detroit has surrendered the 15th-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, and they've been particularly generous to the slot. Tre'Quan Smith (54 yards and 2 scores), Andy Isabella (47 yards and 2 touchdowns), Keelan Cole (143 yards), and Anthony Miller (76 yards and a tuddy) all had big games against the Lions, and each of them lines up in the slot for more than half of their snaps. Jefferson should be given opportunities to produce in a game where the Minnesota Vikings have the fourth-highest implied total on the slate.
Marvin Jones (at Minnesota) - This one is predicated on Matthew Stafford being active on Sunday, but if Stafford is active (definitely possible), Jones is an excellent streamer. To date, the Minnesota Vikings have surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing receivers, and that includes allowing the most scores to the position, despite the fact that they've already had their bye. Through seven games, the Vikings have allowed eight different receivers to rack up at least 15.9 half-PPR points against them. Marvin Jones has been far from fantastic this season, but he has recorded double-digit half-PPR points in three of the four games that he's seen at least six targets. With Kenny Golladay out this week, Jones should have no trouble getting to, and exceeding, six targets.
Diontae Johnson (at Dallas) - If you're anything like me, you're quite scarred from rostering Diontae Johnson this season. Since the first two weeks of the season, the three times I've actually started Johnson, he's scored 0.9, 0.3, and 1.1 fantasy points. Tilting. Of course, due to questionable health, I had him on the bench in Week 7 when he went off for 24.5 half-PPR points. Even more tilting. Nevertheless, I am back on the bandwagon this week. Johnson practiced in full on Wednesday, which is a great sign for his health heading into Sunday. Of course, he's seemingly more at risk of an in-game injury than anyone in the league, but that's a risk worth taking given his upside. The matchup is salivating, as Dallas has allowed at least 13.6 fantasy points to 10 different wideouts.
Terry McLaurin (vs. NYG) - A matchup with James Bradberry has been a scary proposition for wideouts this season. Top receivers like Diontae Johnson (57 scoreless yards), Allen Robinson (33 scoreless yards), Robert Woods (36 scoreless yards), Amari Cooper (23 scoreless yards), McLaurin himself (74 scoreless yards), and Travis Fulgham (73 scoreless yards) have all struggled in this spot. Scary Terry will surely get a healthy enough number of targets to be somewhat relevant, but he's a fade this week.
Darius Slayton (at Washington) - Somehow, Washington is the team that's been stingiest to opposing wide receivers this season. And they've played seven games, so it's not as if the sample size is tiny. DeAndre Hopkins and Robert Woods have been the only wideouts to manage more than 12 half-PPR points against Washington. Slayton's targets have been inconsistent this season, but he saw just four looks when these teams met in Week 6. I'd be more inclined to roll with Sterling Shepard than I would Slayton.
All Dallas Wideouts (vs. Pittsburgh) - The Steelers have been nothing like the team that was stingiest against opposing wideouts once they acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, but that doesn't make this any better of a spot for the Dallas' receivers. By our metrics, Pittsburgh still has the sixth-best defense in the league this season, and the fact that they'll be going up against either the fourth of fifth-string quarterback for the Cowboys will have them licking their chops. It's nearly impossible to predict which of the Cowboys' receivers might have a usable fantasy performance any given week. My advice -- just sit them all.
Noah Fant (at Atlanta) - If you exclude their two matchups with the Panthers (who treat the tight end position like it's the plague), Atlanta has allowed at least 13.6 half-PPR points to tight ends in every game this season. The Falcons have ceded at least 10.4 half-PPR points to a tight end in all but one of their non-Carolina games. For reference, 10.4 points would have been good enough to finish as the TE5 last week. Meanwhile, Fant ranks sixth in target share and eighth in air yards among tight ends, according to PlayerProfiler. Fant has seen at least six targets in five of his six outings this season, and of the four tight ends to see at least six looks against Atlanta, none scored fewer than 14.4 half-PPR points.
Eric Ebron (at Dallas) - Dallas ranks 17th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this isn't a good matchup for Ebron. Sure, Dallas Goedert managed only one catch last week, but he only saw one target and looked like he was still shaking off the rust in his return from injury. The fact is, Dallas has surrendered at least 8.6 half-PPR points to five different tight ends this season. And while 8.6 half-PPR points may not seem like much, it would have been a top-10 tight end performance last week. Now, Ebron has seen a snap share higher than 70% in each of his last six games, and he's garnered at least five looks in five of his last six outings. That's about as much as you can ask for at the position.
Jordan Reed (vs. Green Bay) - This is a volume play more than anything else. As I mentioned in the McKinnon blurb, San Francisco's skill position group will be completely unrecognizable in Week 9. That leaves the door open for someone like Jordan Reed to see a hoard of targets. In Kittle's stead in Week 2, Reed managed to rack up 50 yards and 2 scores. Yes, Reed's floor is probably as low as it gets at the position, but he also comes with tremendous upside.
Mike Gesicki (at Arizona) - After being brutally awful against tight ends in 2019, the Arizona Cardinals have actually turned it around against the position this season. Arizona has held each of George Kittle, Logan Thomas, and T.J. Hockenson to 7.3 half-PPR points or less this season. In fact, the only tight end to surpass 7.3 was Jesse James (10.3) in Week 3. Gesicki has had a number of duds so far this season, and in his first game with Tua Tagovailoa behind center, he saw just two targets against a Los Angeles Rams team that was surrendering one of the highest tight end target shares in the league. I'd keep Gesicki on the bench for this one.