Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
No Patriots or Frank Gore for your teams in Week 9, so we will have to scramble to fill in for some quality starters as well as find new bench players for your Jets and Rams, who thankfully also have the week off. With that in mind, here are some options to get you through Week 9.
Get 'em active ...
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (at WAS)
Current own/start %: 99/65
I'd start him over: Eli Manning (vs. PIT), Ben Roethlisberger (at NYG), Tony Romo (at ATL)
I know Cam had two more interceptions and no touchdowns against the Bears, but I was encouraged by the fact that he threw for 314 yards against a very tough pass defense. He was able to lead the Panthers on six scoring drives against the Bears and just missed a rushing touchdown when the ball was dislodged as he was going into the end zone. All told, he was responsible for 351 yards of total offense against the Bears and should fare much better this week against the Redskins. The Skins have surrendered a league-high 19 passing touchdowns this year and have the lowest-ranked pass defense at 325 yards per game as well. Six of the eight quarterbacks who have faced Washington have produced at least 21 points and have finished in the Top 12 at the position for the week. I know Cam has been slumping but when he is good, he is really, really good. Look for that to be the case as he finally delivers a monster Fantasy week for your teams in Week 9 against the 'Skins.
Other QBs with favorable matchups: Matthew Stafford (at JAC), Michael Vick (at NO), Robert Griffin III (vs. CAR), Josh Freeman (at OAK), Carson Palmer (vs. TB), Andrew Luck (vs. MIA), Ben Roethlisberger (at NYG); Bye Week Broski: Matt Schaub (vs. BUF), Philip Rivers (vs. KC), Jay Cutler (at TEN), Brandon Weeden (vs. BAL)
Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos (at CIN)
Current own/start %: 100/93
I'd start him over: Darren Sproles (vs. PHI), Fred Jackson (at HOU), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. PIT)
We got a "Roll Willie Roll" from Brian Westbrook on Fantasy Football Today last week and it worked out very well, so I am going back to the well with Willis McGahee in Week 9. Bill has now produced at least 100 total yards in four straight games and is averaging 14 points per game during that span. He should fare very well against the Bengals this week because when McGahee scores, he produces an average of 17.3 Fantasy points per game. That is important because he is a great bet to score against a Bengals defense that has allowed a running back rushing touchdown in six out of seven games this year. They have allowed eight total running back rushing scores on the year, which is the second most in the NFL. The Bengals are also giving up an average of 20.14 Fantasy points per week to the running back position and have allowed six backs to produce 11 or more points in a single game. With McGahee really developing into a dual threat back (126 receiving yards in his last three games) and a goal line hammer for the Broncos, look for another monster game from the 31-year old stalwart.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars (vs. DET)
Current own/start %: 95/67
I'd start him over: Jonathan Stewart (at WAS), Michael Turner (vs. DAL), Chris Johnson (vs. CHI)
Jennings has not been the prettiest runner since taking over for Maurice Jones-Drew, but if you like a baseline of at least 100 total yards, which I do, then he is a solid starter for your teams in Week 9. In three career games with at least 20 touches, Jennings has produced at least 100 total yards in all of them and has scored in two of them. He averages 14.7 points per game as the main man and is a great dual-threat back. Over the last two weeks, Jennings has been the target of 17 passes and has caught 13 of them for 104 yards. He has produced at least six catches and 50 yards in each game and should continue that trend against the Lions. The Lions have allowed 18 running back receptions in their last three games and have allowed at least 10 running back points in each. Over the last three games, the Lions are giving up 14.3 points per game to running backs and with Jennings the only show in town, he is a great bet to hit 10 points again this week. That makes his a solid No. 2 running back or a great flex option with enhanced PPR value for your teams.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: Doug Martin (at OAK), Trent Richardson (vs. BAL), Darren McFadden (vs. TB), Jamaal Charles (at SD), Ryan Mathews (vs. KC), DeMarco Murray/Felix Jones (at ATL), Alfred Morris (vs. CAR), Darren Sproles (vs. PHI), Jonathan Dwyer (at NYG), Reggie Bush (at IND); Bye Week Broksis: Jonathan Stewart (at WAS), Daniel Thomas (at IND)
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders (vs. TB)
Current own/start %: 99/78
I'd start him over: Hakeem Nicks (vs. PIT), Antonio Brown (at NYG), Jeremy Maclin (at NO)
Denarius Moore is becoming a dominant No. 1 receiver right before our very eyes and has elevated himself to must start status as far as I am concerned. Moore has seen at least eight targets in every game this year and has produced at least 100 yards or a touchdown in four of his last five games. He has not produced fewer than seven Fantasy points in a game during that span and has shown the development to produce even when the deep ball is taken away. During that five-game run, Moore has caught 53.4 percent of his targets and is averaging a solid 8.1 yards per target. That is significant because it shows his maturation as a receiver in just his second season. Last year, Moore caught just 43 percent of his targets and was a boom or bust player who relied solely on the deep ball to produce. Last year, only one of his six touchdowns came from inside the red zone, whereas he has already hauled in three scores from inside the 20-yard line. Carson Palmer counts on Moore to deliver every week and that is exactly what he has done. Look for that to continue against the Buccaneers in Week 9 as the opposing top target has now scored against them in back to back games. For the year, the Bucs are allowing just under 29 points per game to the wide receiver position and in the last two weeks alone, four receivers have produced at least 10 points against them and six have produced at least seven! Roll with Moore this and every week going forward, because the kid is a stud.
Other WRs with favorable matchups: Jeremy Maclin/DeSean Jackson (at NO), Percy Harvin (at SEA), Calvin Johnson/Titus Young (at JAC), Mike Wallace/Antonio Brown (at NYG), Steve Smith (at WAS), Randall Cobb/Jordy Nelson/James Jones (vs. ARI), Eric Decker/Demaryius Thomas (at CIN), Brian Hartline (at IND), Andre Johnson (vs. BUF), Mike Williams/Vincent Jackson (at OAK), Marques Colston/Lance Moore (vs. PHI), Miles Austin (at ATL), Malcom Floyd (at KC), Anquan Boldin (at CLE) Bye Week Broskis: Darrius Heyward-Bey (vs. TB), Cecil Shorts (vs. DET), Josh Gordon (vs. BAL), Donnie Avery (vs. MIA), Ryan Broyles (at JAC), Andre Roberts (at GB), Santana Moss (vs. CAR), Golden Tate (vs. MIN), Brandon LaFell (at WAS)
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers (at WAS)
Current own/start %: 83/48
I'd start him over: Jermichael Finley (vs. ARI), Kyle Rudolph (at SEA), Martellus Bennett (vs. PIT)
If you do not have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller or Vernon Davis this week or if you have been saddled with Jermichael 'Bust' Finley, Greg Olsen may be a great solution to pickup and play in Week 9. Olsen has not done anything in weeks and is available in a good number of leagues, which makes him an ideal tight end 'Bye Week Broski' against the awful Redskins. The 'Skins are absolutely atrocious at defending tight ends this year and are currently allowing a league-high 12.1 Fantasy points per game to the position. The 'Skins have allowed seven tight end touchdowns this year, tied for the most in the league with the Titans. A tight end has scored in six of eight games against Washington this year and in every game but one, the opposing starter has produced at least seven Fantasy points. Even Martellus Bennett was able to catch five passes for 79 yards against Washington in Week 7 before disappearing again in Week 8. The 'Skins have allowed at least 15 tight end points in three of the last four games and if there was ever a time to dial up Olsen in your starting lineup, this is it.
Other TEs with favorable matchups: Jermaine Gresham (vs. DEN), Antonio Gates (vs. SD), Heath Miller (at NYG), Brent Celek (at NO), Owen Daniels (vs. BUF); Bye Week Broskis: Kellen Davis (at TEN), Brandon Myers (vs. TB)
Ride the pine ...
Eli Manning, QB, Giants (vs. PIT)
Current own/start %: 100/78
I'd rather start: Cam Newton (at WAS), Andrew Luck (vs. MIA), Josh Freeman (at OAK)
In his last three games, Eli Manning has exactly two passing touchdowns, three interceptions and has been held under 200 yards passing twice. In their last three games, the Steelers have allowed exactly three passing touchdowns and held opposing quarterbacks under 200 yards passing twice. In fact, the Steelers have gone four straight games holding quarterbacks to 16 or fewer Fantasy points and they have not allowed one Top 12 quarterback during that span, despite facing Michael Vick, Andy Dalton and Robert Griffin III. Eli is in a slump and could not even top the 20-point barrier against the awful Redskins pass defense. Eli is a stud and capable of a breakout at any point against any opponent, but given the excellent quarterback play around the league right now, I do not think you need to start him this week in a difficult matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that has been the eighth toughest on quarterbacks all year long, allowing just 15.29 points per game.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (at CLE)
Current own/start %: 90/14
I'd rather start: Carson Palmer (vs. TB), Philip Rivers (vs. KC), Matt Schaub (vs. BUF)
Joe Flacco does not like playing on the road. Perhaps he has the best bed in the world back in Baltimore or he really needs the exact same routine to produce, but the fact of the matter is that he is a much better quarterback when the team plays in Baltimore. In his last nine road games, Flacco has thrown for multiple passing touchdowns only once and he has been held below 250 yards passing six times. In his last two games at Cleveland, Flacco has thrown for a grand total of 260 yards passing and two touchdowns, which is fine production for one game, but horrendous for two. Over the last two weeks, the Browns pass defense seems to have regained its 2011 form with Joe Haden back in the lineup. In those two games, they have not allowed a single passing touchdown to either Andrew Luck or Rivers and neither quarterback was able to pass for more than 186 yards. The pass defense is improving and I expect to see a run-oriented attack from the Ravens in Week 9, so I'd pass on Joey Flaccs.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (vs. DAL)
Current own/start %: 100/77
I'd rather start: Rashad Jennings (vs. DET), Reggie Bush (at IND), Chris Johnson (vs. CHI)
In his last three games, Michael Turner has not run for 70 yards in a single game and is averaging less than seven Fantasy points per game despite scoring one touchdown. During that span, Turner has rushed for a total of 158 yards 53 carries, which is a paltry 2.98 yards per carry. For the year, Turner has produced 70 or more rushing yards in only two games and has failed to produce 60 yards on four separate occasions. The Cowboys have allowed four rushing touchdowns in the last three games and Turner will have to hope he scores, otherwise he will be in for another four or five point day. The Cowboys have allowed only one running back all year -- Marshawn Lynch -- to run for more than 80 yards against them all year. In their last five games, the 'Boys have been pretty much lockdown against some of the best runners in the NFL. During that span, Dallas has held Doug Martin (53 yards, 2.8 yards per carry), Matt Forte (52, 4.0), Ray Rice (63, 3.9), Jonathan Stewart (35, 3.5) and Ahmad Bradshaw (78, 3.5) in check on the ground. Only Ray Rice produced 10 or more Fantasy points from that group and I don't expect Turner to be the second unless he can fall into the end zone. I don't like to start people who need a score to be relevant, so I am sitting good ol' ankle weights in Week 9.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (at SD)
Current own/start %: 100/63
I'd rather start: Denarius Moore (vs. TB), Mike Williams (at OAK), Titus Young (at JAC)
Dwayne Bowe has never produced more than 10 Fantasy points in his second meeting with the Chargers at any point in his career. In fact, in his second go around with the Chargers every year, Bowe averages just 5.25 points per game for his career. Bowe has not hit the 70-yard mark in three straight games, nor has he found the end zone in that span against relatively soft pass defenses in Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Oakland. In fact, Bowe has found the end zone in only three of his last 18 games, which is pretty remarkable for a guy we think of as a touchdown maker. It becomes even scarier for Bowe when you consider that he has only produced 10 or more Fantasy points in a game without a touchdown catch five times in his career. Bowe is unhappy in Kansas City and I think his Fantasy owners will remain unhappy with his production this Thursday night.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (at SEA)
Current own/start %: 95/53
I'd rather start: Greg Olsen (at WAS), Brandon Pettigrew (at JAC), Jermaine Gresham (vs. DEN)
In his last two games, Kyle Rudolph has seen a grand total of six targets and has caught two of them for just 17 yards. He has produced exactly one Fantasy point in those two games and could struggle again in Week 9 against the Seahawks. For the year, the 'Hawks have not allowed a single tight end to score 10 Fantasy points and they have surrendered only two tight end touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez is the only tight end who has produced more than seven Fantasy points against this pass defense that has held Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley and Greg Olsen all to six or fewer Fantasy points. It was just two weeks ago that Seattle shut out Vernon Davis and while Brandon Pettigrew did have seven catches for 74 yards last week, that kind of game is not in the cards for Rudolph. He has never had nine targets in a game like Pettigrew did last week and Rudolph has eclipsed 40 yards receiving in a game just twice in his breakout year. Look for another option until Rudolph gets it going again for your teams.
Good luck this week!