A second heavy wave of bye weeks will storm through fantasy leagues this week, leaving nothing but broken dreams and overturned box scores in its path. Thankfully, the crew here at Rotoworld has you covered and will help to unearth the top bye week replacements that the fantasy universe has to offer. That quest begins with the fantasy special teams department, as we prepare to dig into the depths of the Week 9 schedule and dissect fantasy D/ST and kicker options to maximize your point totals. Buckle up.
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The Seattle Seahawks (vs Buffalo) allowed 25 points in Week 8, their highest total of the season, but still registered a top-5 fantasy finish thanks to a defensive score and a pair of sacks. Seattle ranks second in scoring defense and is tied for third in sacks, providing the safe floor that has carried this group in recent years. Buffalo will travel to Seattle for a Monday night matchup, which will be a tough spot for the Bills to end a two-game losing skid. We often preach targeting large home favorites in the fantasy D/ST world and the Seahawks D/ST is staring at a prime setup this week.
The Kansas City Chiefs (vs Jacksonville) are on an absolute heater. The Chiefs D/ST could hit on a 17 with the dealer showing a face card and a four of diamonds would magically fly out of the shoe. Since their Week 5 bye, the Chiefs have racked up nine sacks and six turnovers in three games while scoring double digit fantasy points in each outing. If we threw out Kansas City’s Week 4 debacle at Pittsburgh, the Chiefs would slot second among fantasy defenses in points per game through eight weeks. The fun won’t stop this week, as Blake Bortles will stroll into Arrowhead Stadium with a bucket full of interceptions to chuck to the Chiefs. Bortles has thrown nine interceptions this season and the Jaguars’ 30th-ranked rushing offense should put the ball squarely in his hands throughout this game.
Monday night was miserable for the Minnesota Vikings (vs Detroit), as they lost to Chicago and were trampled by Bears RB Jordan Howard. Despite their fine fantasy performance so far in 2016, the Vikings are suffering through a bit of a sack drought in recent weeks, recording just one sack in two games since their bye and sacking opposing quarterbacks more than once in only one of their last four games. Sack struggles aside, this defense is led by a sterling secondary and is absolutely trustworthy at home against Detroit and Matthew Stafford this week.
Week 8’s top scoring defense belongs to the Denver Broncos (at Oakland), who will once again be a top-tier fantasy option in Week 9. Oakland has allowed the fewest sacks among NFL offenses, but betting against this Denver group is a tough sell. The Broncos have stacked up multiple sacks in seven of eight games this season and have the horses to handle the quality Oakland offensive line.
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Tier Two Trio
The Green Bay Packers (vs Indianapolis) have largely been mediocre as a fantasy D/ST option this season, but they do rush the quarterback well and have 19 sacks to show for the efforts. Week 9 brings Indianapolis to Green Bay, and Packers pass rushers will be licking their chops as they prepare to feast on the Colts’ offensive line that has allowed 31 sacks this season, six more than any other team. This game does have a high over/under but there will be ample chances for fantasy splash plays from the Pack.
Los Angeles’ Case Keenum is responsible for 11 turnovers this season and has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games. With Jeff Fisher keeping Jared Goff in bubble wrap, Keenum will draw another start against the Carolina Panthers (at Los Angeles) in Week 9. The Panthers hammered the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8 to the tune of eight sacks, two turnovers, and a defensive score and will look to do the same against the Rams. The pass defense of the Panthers is still atrocious, but Keenum isn’t the most imposing threat to the struggling Carolina secondary.
The Dallas Cowboys (at Cleveland) suffered injuries to their secondary in Week 8 but should still be able to turn in a solid fantasy effort against Cleveland, who has allowed the fourth-most sacks of any NFL team. Rookie Cody Kessler should be back under center for Cleveland, and although he has been reasonably responsible with the football in his brief career, this matchup isn’t overwhelming by any means.
Dallas had their way with the defense of the Philadelphia Eagles (at NY Giants) in Week 8, holding the Eagles D/ST to its lowest fantasy point total of the season. Week 9 will see Philadelphia travel to face another divisional foe in the New York Giants, where the Eagles will look to get back on track. Another road underdog spot is not overly exciting for the Eagles D/ST, but this group does have five top-10 fantasy finishes in seven tries.
The Miami Dolphins (vs NY Jets) aren’t always useful for fantasy purposes, but this week they are the lucky team to face Ryan Fitzpatrick. Our boy Fitz managed to get through Week 8 without throwing an interception, but completed just 16 of 34 passes. The Miami defense has only three interceptions on the season, but they are playing at home this week and the wheels could come flying off for Fitzpatrick at any second.
The possible return of Ben Roethlisberger could wipe the shine from the Baltimore Ravens (vs Pittsburgh) this week, but the Ravens D/ST could be a nice option if Large Ben sits out another week. Baltimore has recorded multiple turnovers in five of seven games this season, keeping the Ravens D/ST afloat in fantasy leagues.
The following D/ST options are all available in 90 percent or more of Yahoo leagues and are worth a shot for desperate fantasy owners.
The Atlanta Falcons (at Tampa Bay) will face the Bucs for the second time this season after being dismantled by Jameis Winston in Week 1. Atlanta’s pass rush has turned around in a big way recently, making the Falcons D/ST worth a look.
Tennessee will visit the San Diego Chargers (vs Tennessee) in Week 9, matching the Titans’ rushing attack against the Chargers defense that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. The Chargers D/ST has turned in two top-5 fantasy performances in the last three weeks and could add another one this week at home.
The defense of the New Orleans Saints (at San Francisco) is awful but experienced streamers know that this process takes a leap of faith at times. I would feel much better about gambling on the Saints D/ST if this game were at home, but the 49ers offense has scrounged up just 33 total points in Colin Kaepernick’s first two starts this season, with the San Francisco quarterback completing just 46 percent of his passes.
The Detroit Lions (at Minnesota) own a lackluster pass defense, but will Sam Bradford find enough time in the pocket to exploit the Detroit secondary? The Minnesota offensive line is in rough shape and the Lions sport a respectable 18 sacks through eight weeks, making the Lions D/ST worth a play against the Vikings offense that looked bewildered on Monday night.
Below you will find a battle plan for the next few weeks, including how to handle defenses on bye, future streamers, and lesser-owned DST options with attractive upcoming schedules.
Week 9 Byes: Chicago, Cincinnati, New England, Arizona, Washington, and Houston are on bye this week, and only one of these defenses (Arizona) is in the top-12 in fantasy points per game this season. New England and Arizona are the only two units worth holding through the bye, but not at the expense of any bench players holding even moderate value. New England comes out of the bye vs SEA, @ SF, @ NYJ, vs LAR and Arizona is looking at a matchup with San Francisco in Week 10. Again, don’t toss a useful fantasy asset to the curb, but if you’ve been blowing a final bench spot on backup tight ends, holding one of those two defenses could make sense in the right spot.
Potential Week 10 Streaming Candidates:
Baltimore Ravens (31% owned, Week 10 vs Cleveland)
New York Jets (60% owned, Week 10 vs Los Angeles)
Washington Redskins (22% owned, Week 10 vs Minnesota)
Houston Texans (64% owned, Week 10 at Jacksonville)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3% owned, Week 10 vs Houston)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11% owned, Week 10 vs Chicago)
D/ST Watch List
Kansas City (86% owned)
The Chiefs D/ST ownership has risen sharply in the last week with good reason. They host Jacksonville in Week 9, followed by a trip to Carolina before returning home to face Tampa Bay.
Miami (3% owned)
The Dolphins were on bye in Week 8 and will be well rested as they prepare to host the Jets in Week 9. Miami will then travel to San Diego and Los Angeles, before returning home to face San Francisco in Week 12.
NY Giants (8% owned)
The Giants D/ST turned in a big Week 7 performance before their Week 8 bye and will return with three consecutive home games (PHI, CIN, CHI). The Giants have not been stellar defensively this season but defenses playing at home are often useful and Eli Manning’s squad will likely be the favorite in all three games.
San Diego (9% owned)
The Chargers have recorded two top-5 fantasy finishes in the last three weeks and are rolling into back-to-back home games against Tennessee and Miami before enjoying a Week 11 bye.
Pittsburgh (36% owned)
The time to pounce on the Steelers D/ST will be after Week 10, when Pittsburgh will face Cleveland and Indianapolis in consecutive weeks. Keep this one in your back pocket.
Take Your Kick
Below are the top kicker options for Week 9 of the fantasy football season. Proceed with caution.
1. Steven Hauschka, SEA (vs BUF)
2. Mason Crosby, GB (vs IND)
3. Dan Bailey, DAL (at CLE)
4. Cairo Santos, KC (vs JAX)
5. Matt Bryant, ATL (at TB)
6. Blair Walsh, MIN (vs DET)
7. Josh Lambo, SD (vs TEN)
8. Graham Gano, CAR (at LAR)
9. Wil Lutz, NO (at SF)
11. Adam Vinatieri, IND (at GB)
12. Brandon McManus, DEN (at OAK)
13. Robbie Gould, NYG (vs PHI)
14. Andrew Franks, MIA (vs NYJ)
15. Caleb Sturgis, PHI (at NYG)