Week 9 of the fantasy football season is finally here, and the Rotoworld crew has everything you need leave the weekend with a win. Patrick Daugherty answers your lineup questions with his Week 9 Rankings, Nick Mensio tells you who to start and who to fade in Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em, and Evan Silva breaks down every matchup in his award-winning Matchups Column.
As for me, I am here to shed some light on the most important injury situations facing fantasy owners heading into the weekend. The sister resource to this column is the Rotoworld News Page, which will have every single inactive and all the late-breaking news up to kickoff and beyond. I also tweet about football (and wrestling) at @notJDaigle.
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Lions @ Vikings
*Theo Riddick (knee) will play after getting in a full practice Friday. He wasn’t impactful on the ground, handling just eight carries all year, but he’ll undoubtedly slide right back into the same passing-down role that’s allowed Kerryon Johnson to bolster his numbers the last two games. Johnson’s usage peaked Sunday, for example, reaching season-highs in snap rate (81.4%), targets (12), and routes run (30). Without the routes and targets to secure his floor, though, the rookie back should be regarded as an RB3/FLEX stuck in a three-headed committee rather than an exciting high-end RB2. Lions top CB Darius Slay (knee) is questionable here, but it may not matter too much if Stefon Diggs (ribs, questionable) is out. (See below.)
*Standouts Xavier Rhodes (ankle, questionable) and LT Riley Reiff (foot, probable) should both be back after a full week of practice. But Diggs failed to practice all week and seems truly questionable for Sunday. Even if he plays, he’d garner Slay’s coverage (health pending) on the outside given that the corner has traveled to the slot on just 37 snaps all year — 13 of which came in Week 5 when the Lions were left scrambling once primary slot CB Jamal Agnew was lost. In turn, this matchup sets up perfectly for Adam Thielen (go figure) against incumbent slot replacement Nevin Lawson. Laquon Treadwell and Aldrick Robinson, the latter who’s scored three touchdowns on five catches since signing with the Vikes in Week 3, would be used heavily in three-wide sets if Diggs is out.
Dalvin Cook’s availability (hamstring, questionable) is all over the place (hence the extra paragraph). He was reportedly told he’d be in on 8-12 plays if healthy at the beginning of the week, but that range has since grown to 15-20 plays. That’s legitimately a 20% difference in snap rate. This situation reeks of his usage in Week 4, when he was reportedly on a “snap count” against the Rams then out-carried Latavius Murray 10-2 on just 18 snaps (24%). Murray’s averaged elite rates in snaps (80.9%), carries (15.8), and routes (26) sans Cook since Week 5, but needs to be downgraded if Cook is actually expected to play 15-plus downs. Murray’s a touchdown-dependent RB2 whereas Cook is a FLEX for the truly bold/desperate only.
Bears @ Bills
*Allen Robinson (groin) and Khalil Mack (ankle) are both game-time decisions for the second straight week. In Mack’s case, an absence might not matter with Nathan Peterman calling plays for Buffalo. Anthony Miller led Chicago in targets (7) and routes (30) without Robinson available Sunday, posting his third-straight performance with 80-plus air yards. He’s a high-end WR3 if Robinson again misses time.
Buccaneers @ Panthers
*The Bucs should be getting back both DT Gerald McCoy (calf, questionable) and DE Vinny Curry (ankle, questionable) following their full participation on Friday. That upgrades Tampa Bay’s trenches against Carolina’s rushing onslaught, but the secondary will still be exploitable without CB M.J. Stewart (leg) manning the slot. Backup De’Vante Harris is expected to make his first start of the year there, with Brent Grimes and Calton Davis sticking on the outside. Peyton Barber should get a full workload with Ronald Jones (hamstring, out) sidelined “a few weeks”, but he was notably ignored in the passing game the last time we saw Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Barber will be a usage-based RB2 that needs to score in order to return value.
*Torrey Smith (knee) is out for the second consecutive week, keeping explosive rookie D.J. Moore in the WR2 stratosphere. The 92nd-percentile SPARQ freak set season-highs in snaps (46, 70.8%), targets (6), and routes (29) Sunday, inevitably posterizing Baltimore’s No. 10 pass defense DVOA for 5/90. Keep him fired up across all formats in Week 9.
Chiefs @ Browns
*Have no fear, Tyreek Hill was removed from Kansas City’s injury report altogether on Friday. He’s good to go in what should be a title fight between he and No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward, who’s now PFF’s No. 8 CB among 117 qualifiers.
*CB E.J. Gaines (concussion) and FS Damarious Randall (groin, probable) should be lined up with Ward at kick-off, whereas LB Joe Schobert (hamstring) remains out. Rashard Higgins (knee) and Antonio Callaway (heel) are both questionable but expected to play. Higgins has been out since Week 5, so it’s anyone’s guess whether new OC Freddie Kitchens values him as the team’s No. 2 over Callaway. The best approach for Week 9 is to avoid both and stay reliant on Jarvis Landry, who’s the best bet in Cleveland’s new offensive scheme to turn his 28% target share and 536 air yards with Baker Mayfield under center into hihg-end fantasy production.
Jets @ Dolphins
*Receivers Robby Anderson (ankle), Quincy Enunwa (ankle), and Andre Roberts (back) all got in limited sessions on Friday and are listed as questionable. Enunwa seems the farthest from playing of the three, but it’s at least plausible since he wasn’t ruled out earlier in the week. He’d immediately vault back into a WR3 floor-play if active. If Anderson suits up, he’ll be regarded higher if Miami’s premier corner Xavien Howard (ankle, questionable) is ruled out. RB Elijah McGuire (foot) was activated from injured reserve and should make his debut Sunday. He’ll likely be brought along slowly in his first game action of the year, so consider him a better Week 9 stash than viable option.
*Kenny Stills (groin, questionable) was limited Friday. If out, it’s feasible to treat DeVante Parker as a safe WR3. He recorded team-highs in targets (9) and air yards (136) en route to 6/134 on 100% of Miami’s offensive snaps without Stills last Thursday.
Steelers @ Ravens
*Peripheral corners Artie Burns (ankle) and Coty Sensabaugh (foot) are both questionable for this divisional tilt. Burns was recently benched for Sensabaugh, so the latter’s is the real injury of note. Cameron Sutton, who allowed 7-of-8 targets thrown his way to be caught in his most recent game action, would step in if both are ruled out.
*One of the reasons I enjoy writing this piece is because it forces me to thoroughly scour every team’s injury report for injuries that might not directly affect season-long and DFS lineups on the surface, but will likely have an underlying impact. Having said that, note that the Ravens will be without starting tackles Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back). Backup LT Jermaine Eluemunor will presumably make his first career start, with Orlando Brown Jr. making his third career start on the right side of the line. Alex Collins (foot, questionable) is expected to play, but he’s an extremely skeptical option (even in a six-team bye week) given the Ravens’ hobbled run-blocking in what’s now a crowded backfield situation. Collins hasn't played 50% of Baltimore's snaps in any game this season.
Falcons @ Redskins
*Secondary CB Robert Alford (ankle) is out, but don’t let anyone convince you that’s a downgrade to Atlanta’s backend. He’s been torched for 537 yards and four touchdowns on just 29 receptions (18.5 yards per catch) this season. Isaiah Oliver will start alongside Desmond Trufant. In rare kicker news that matters to approximately three people, Matt Bryant (hamstring) is also out.
*Chris Thompson (ribs), Jamison Crowder (ankle), and LT Trent Williams (thumb) are all confirmed out. Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) and backup RB Kapri Bibbs (shoulder) are questionable, too. Much like Sunday when he received just five touches on 26 snaps, Thompson would not have been involved if Washington manages to keep this one close, anyhow. Potentially without pass-catcher Bibbs, though, Peterson has a chance at increased usage even if the Redskins fall behind early. Jordan Reed hasn’t had a better chance to explode, too, given Washington’s lack of viable receiving options. Note that Reed’s run a route on 51 of Alex Smith's 62 dropbacks the past two weeks, and recorded a season-high 38% target share Sunday.
Texans @ Broncos
*On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans might struggle to limit Denver’s offense with all of Jadeveon Clowney (groin), CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle), S Andre Hal (shoulder), and CB Aaron Colvin (ankle) questionable. Keke Coutee (hamstring, questionable) was also limited from Wednesday on and is a game-time call in what would be his debut with Demaryius Thomas on the outside. Coutee’s floor remains safe if active, but Thomas figures to limit the rookie’s ceiling. DeAndre Hopkins is safe regardless of Coutee’s presence given the former’s historical 36% target share without Will Fuller (torn ACL) in the lineup.
*Royce Freeman (ankle) returned on a limited basis Friday and was slapped with an ensuing questionable tag. Phillip Lindsay was taken off special teams with the sole purpose of handling more backfield work last week, and was rewarded with 21 touches on 41 (56%) snaps. Devontae Booker got 13 touches on 32 (44%) snaps, totaling 18 routes to Lindsay’s 17. If Freeman is active, Booker will return to a middling unusable role. Lindsey will stay an RB1 for the second straight week in this juicy matchup at home if Freeman is ruled out.
Chargers @ Seahawks
*Melvin Gordon (hamstring, questionable) was a full participant for the first time all week on Friday. When asked if Gordon will play, coach Anthony Lynn casually responded “we’ll see...If he’s feeling well, I know he wants to play.” Players rarely (if ever) get in a full practice Friday and still get ruled out, so it’s likely Gordon plays on Sunday. It’s a tough matchup on paper for the Chargers’ offense as a whole, but the extra rest could lead to more points for both teams. You’re obviously starting Gordon if he’s deemed active.
*Here’s the full quote from coach Pete Carroll on Chris Carson (groin, questionable), who was limited this week: “He worked. He’s just got a little groin thing he’s feeling. He got through the day. He practiced every day this week. We’ve just got to make sure on game day that he’s OK. If not we’ll go with other guys and move forward. We’ll see.” Carroll’s one for coach speak, but that speak usually has a point. There’s legitimately no point to the statement above. What he said was one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in his rambling, incoherent response was he even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone who read it is now dumber for having thought about it. He's awarded no points... Just know Carson’s quietly out-snapped (104-69) and out-carried (61-32) Mike Davis by a wide margin in Seattle’s last three games, and would undoubtedly work as the team’s primary No. 1 if active.
Rams @ Saints
*Cooper Kupp (knee) practiced throughout the week and was removed from the team’s injury report Friday. Start him if you own him. Kupp returns in the utmost perfect situation against slot CB P.J. Williams, who’s comically permitted five touchdowns and a 136.7 passer rating in coverage since returning from injury in Week 3.
*DE Marcus Davenport (toe, out) is the only notable player who didn’t get removed from New Orleans’ injury report on Friday.
Packers @ Patriots
*Geronimo Allison (hamstring, groin) surprisingly popped up as ‘doubtful’ Friday. Assuming he’s out, rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling should vault into the team’s No. 2 role across from the inevitable Davante Adams-Stephen Gilmore bout. MVS quietly out-snapped (31-24) and ran more routes (22 to 17) than Randall Cobb (hamstring, questionable) last week and should play ahead of him again versus the Patriots’ No. 19 pass defense DVOA. He’s a safe WR3, especially with several viable receiver options out on bye.
*I’m just going to start linking the Patriots’ injury report here so you can read it for yourself. Most noteworthy are Sony Michel (knee, questionable) and Rob Gronkowski (ankle, back), both who were limited participants Friday and labeled as questionable. Michel actually returned to practice last Saturday, so it would be shocking if he’s ruled out. Assuming Gronk suits up, there’s arguably no better time to leverage him than after an eight-target outing in which he was peppered downfield but mustered only 43 yards. The hobbled tight end accrued the most air yards at his position in Week 8, too, simultaneously averaging a season-high share (35%) of the team’s collective air yards. Sunday night is a potential eruption spot for him.
Titans @ Cowboys
*Corey Davis (hamstring) has been limited throughout the week and remains questionable for Monday. Even if active, he’d be handcuffed to Byron Jones, who’s quietly the No. 2 CB among 117 qualifiers at PFF. Taywan Taylor would be the pivot and single-slate DFS option if Davis is ruled out.
*Stout pass rusher David Irving (ankle) has already been ruled out. He’ll be replaced by a number of defensive players given DC Rod Marinelli’s rotational scheming. TE Geoff Swaim (knee), RG Zack Martin (knee), and Tavon Austin (groin) are all questionable as of Saturday morning.