Week 9 of the fantasy football season is finally here, and the Rotoworld crew has everything you need to 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, Ian Hartitz dives into which receivers are destined for production in his WR/CB Matchups Analysis, and Hayden Winks breaks down every matchup in his Fantasy Forecast Column.
I'm also 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'll also join Josh Norris and a rotating member of the crew every Sunday morning at noon ET on the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Show to answer all of your pressing start/sit decisions.
Editor's Note: Drafting is only half the battle. Dominate all season long with our Season Pass! Use our NEW Start/Sit Tool, Trade Analyzer, Consensus Rankings, Projections and more on your way to a championship! Click here for more!
Texans @ Jaguars
* Kenny Stills’ 10 targets without Will Fuller (hamstring, out) the past two weeks don’t jump off the page, but the former’s underlying usage on 95 percent of the team’s snaps in that stretch still spell a breakout waiting to happen. He’ll have the on-paper edge in London as A.J. Bouye will reportedly travel with DeAndre Hopkins, leaving No. 2 CB Tre Herndon, who’s permitted 14.5 yards per catch on 44 targets from the outside this season, on Stills.
* Even if Dede Westbrook (shoulder, questionable) can’t go, both D.J. Chark and Chris Conley get one of fantasy’s friendliest Week 9 matchups since all of Bradley Roby (hamstring), Lonnie Johnson (concussion), S Tashaun Gipson (back, wrist) and J.J. Watt (pec, IR) have been ruled out. Watt himself accounted for 67 percent of Houston’s quarterback hits, arguably planting Gardner Minshew as a Top 10 play at his position. Conley's 21 percent target share in Jacksonville's last two games should carry over if Westbrook's held out.
Colts @ Steelers
* A non-contact calf injury will reportedly sideline T.Y. Hilton for the next 3-4 weeks, opening the door for Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin to get involved. In Indy’s only game without Hilton this season (Week 4), Rogers led all in routes run (39) while Campbell saw a team-high eight targets. Jack Doyle out-snapped Eric Ebron 56-27 in that contest, but the latter still spiked a 48-yard touchdown following a number of drops. Pascal holds the highest ceiling among this group but none can be considered anything more than WR3/FLEX plays considering Pittsburgh’s allowed the seventh-fewest receptions to opposing wideouts. Doyle also remains the safer option among Indy’s tight ends (despite Ebron’s touchdown equity being higher).
* With James Conner (shoulder, doubtful) unlikely to play, Jaylen Samuels should be confidently fired up as a season-long/DFS lock at his position. Not only has he quietly averaged 16-plus fantasy points in the six career games he’s logged at least seven touches, only fourth-stringer Trey Edmunds stands in Samuels’ path of playing every down with Benny Snell (knee, out) shelved. Don’t overthink this one.
Vikings @ Chiefs
* As the only player listed on Minnesota’s injury report, coach Mike Zimmer said Adam Thielen (hamstring, questionable) will likely be “put through a workout” to gauge how his soft tissue injury responds in Arrowhead’s mid-40s temperature prior to kick-off. He’s ultimately expected to play and should be treated as a borderline WR1 behind Diggs since he was close to playing in the Vikings’ short turnaround against Washington last week. Olabisi Johnson would slide in as a viable WR3/FLEX as he did on 74 percent of Minnesota's snaps on Thursday Night Football if Thielen's scratched.
* Coach Andy Reid left the door open for Patrick Mahomes (knee, questionable) to return Sunday, glossing over any mention that Matt Moore would start after the former MVP was limited as the team’s No. 2 signal-caller in practice throughout the week. Watkins makes for a WR2 with a week-winning ceiling if Mahomes is under center; otherwise he takes his spot at the table as a cross-your-fingers WR4. On the other side of the ball, you’re firing up Dalvin Cook everywhere even if Frank Clark (neck, questionable) and Chris Jones (groin, questionable) suit up.
Redskins @ Bills
* With Dwayne Haskins making his first career start in place of Case Keenum (concussion, out), fantasy players should just avoid Washington’s offense altogether and pivot to Buffalo’s defense wherever applicable.
Titans @ Panthers
* Not that Christian McCaffrey needs any help hitting pay dirt, but the absence of run-stuffing DT Jurrell Casey (shoulder) certainly makes it easier. Jonnu Smith’s 10 targets and 36 routes in place of Delanie Walker (ankle, out) the past two weeks keep the third-year athlete in the low-end TE1 mix. It’s slightly concerning that Anthony Firkser's still being used on 40.8 percent of the team’s snaps behind Smith, but the latter is still a fantasy starter since his position offers few high-upside snap sponges.
* Curtis Samuel went through a roller coaster in practice this week, getting a full session in on Thursday before being held out entirely the following day. Coach Ron Rivera said the move was merely a precautionary one as Samuel is officially ‘probable’ to suit up behind D.J. Moore.
Jets @ Dolphins
* The Jets’ ludicrous 26-player injury report includes the team’s five primary linebackers and starting corner Trumaine Johnson (ankle, out). Chris Herndon (hamstring, doubtful) can be dropped in every format.
* Xavien Howard (knee, IR) and Reshad Jones (chest, doubtful) — arguably the only bright spots scattered among Miami’s defense — will both likely ride the pine, putting Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Ryan Griffin strongly in play behind Le’Veon Bell.
Bears @ Eagles
* Anthony Miller’s snaps (40) were scaled back in Week 8 since Taylor Gabriel (59) was apparently back to full speed. Note that Gabriel (shin) was a late add to Chicago’s injury report but wasn’t give an actual designation for game day.
* DeSean Jackson’s (abdomen, probable) return is slightly concerning for Dallas Goedert since Philadelphia previously lined up from 11 personnel on 80 percent of their offensive snaps through the first three weeks. Having said that, odds are Nelson Agholor simply becomes an afterthought, allowing the Eagles to continue running a league-high rate of two tight end sets. Zach Ertz is still the dark horse candidate to bounce back with Jackson keeping safeties honest since the former’s targets (64), air yards (601) and red zone looks (14) spell usage that should’ve resulted in more than just one touchdown through the team’s first eight games.
Lions @ Raiders
* Tra Carson (hamstring) was downgraded Wednesday and is now considered questionable. It’s possible Paul Perkins is activated from the team’s practice squad after being released and re-signed mid-week, but that transaction would have to be made official by 4p ET Saturday afternoon. Otherwise Detroit would only have Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic active in their backfield for the first time since Kerryon Johnson initially went down in Week 7 — the same situation that thrusted Ty into 49-of-76 snaps plus double-digit carries over McKissic against the Vikings.
* Potential absentee slips for Detroit d-linemen Mike Daniels (foot, doubtful), A’Shawn Robinson (ankle, questionable) and Damon Harrison (groin, questionable) give Josh Jacobs a boost even if C Rodney Hudson (ankle, questionable) is ruled out.
Buccaneers @ Seahawks
* Cameron Brate (ribs) got a ‘questionable’ designation despite practicing in full to close the week. He’s fully expected to play and follow up on his season-highs in snaps (54), targets (6) and routes run (37) from Sunday in Tampa Bay’s second consecutive contest without O.J. Howard (hamstring, out). While the Cardinals and Bucs have been mocked for their leaky tight ends coverage on the year, note that the Seahawks fall third on that list in total fantasy points (80.8) and receiving yards (568) allowed to that position. Starting RG Alex Cappa (broken arm) and RT Demar Dotson (hamstring) are also expected to return.
Browns @ Broncos
* Even if Odell Beckham (groin) isn’t completely over the groin injury he suffered this offseason, the team still removed him from Friday’s injury report.
* Brandon Allen’s totaled six touchdowns and 11 picks in 15 preseason appearances the past four years, entrenching Cleveland’s defense as the week’s top streamer. Noah Fant should still fill the box score following season-highs in snaps (60, 82%), targets (8) and catches (5) upon Emmanuel Sanders’ departure to San Francisco. Backup TE Jeff Heuerman’s (knee, out) absence vacates another 20 snaps and eight routes from Week 8 that Fant should directly soak up.
Packers @ Chargers
* Davante Adams (toe) is formally listed as questionable despite being healthy enough to leap-frog a standing member of Green Bay’s staff at practice Friday. Fantasy players should fully expect him to suit up in a plus matchup against the Chargers that likely pits him against Casey Hayward’s shadow treatment. With Marquez Valdes-Scantling having played the fewest snaps collectively among Green Bay’s wideouts over the past two weeks, Allen Lazard figures to stick on the opposite sideline in three-wide sets while Geronimo Allison shifts to the slot (as he did on 73.8 percent of snaps before Adams’ injury). MVS could obviously still hit as the team’s leader in air yards (246) and average depth of target (22.4) over the last month. I rank them Adams > MVS > Lazard > Allison purely from a production standpoint.
* Keenan Allen (hamstring) got in two full sessions to close the week and should return to his usual allotment of snaps. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams should also prosper with the crop of Justin Jones (shoulder, doubtful), Brandon Mebane (knee, doubtful) and Cortez Broughton (illness) out on Los Angeles’ interior for the second straight game.
Patriots @ Ravens
* James White (toe, questionable) was a late add to New England’s injury report, potentially gifting Rex Burkhead (foot, probable) passing-down work behind Sony Michel. White remains an RB3 if active whereas Burkhead only receives an upgrade if the former’s out. Rookie N’Keal Harry should also be available but his usage behind Julian Edelman (chest, probable), Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers remains a mystery.
* Marquise Brown (ankle, probable) was only sidelined on Friday for maintenance. He’s fully expected to return at 100 percent in Baltimore’s toughest matchup to date. Fortunately for the Ravens, their defense also gets back Jimmy Smith (knee, probable) across from Marcus Peters, simultaneously pushing Marlon Humphrey into the slot and underneath Earl Thomas (knee, probable).
Cowboys @ Giants
* Fresh off an extended rest following their Week 8 bye, the entire lot of Robert Quinn (ribs, probable), Tyron Smith (ankle, probable) and La’el Collins (knee, probable) are expected back at full speed. Dallas also added DE Michael Bennett before the deadline, inevitably putting Daniel Jones’ league-high pressure rate (44.4%) faced to the test Monday night whether Leighton Vander Esch (neck, game-time call) suits up or not.
* Expect Cody Latimer to get pushed out of New York’s three-wide sets in favor of Sterling Shepard (concussion) with the latter back healthy. It’s the first time Jones will have Golden Tate, Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley and Shepard all available at his disposal all year.