Fantasy plays: Players to start and sit for NFL Week 9

Week 9 ushers in another round of byes with the Broncos, Lions, 49ers, and Jaguars all off this week.

Off the top of my head, that means we’re missing at least two starting quarterbacks, four running backs, three tight ends, and as many as seven wide receivers.


Add in the multitude of quarterback injuries that happened last week and fantasy lineups are looking pretty grim in Week 9.

But don’t worry, this piece has you covered.

Every week I’ll be listing out every fantasy-relevant player, sorted by position and bucketed into tiers with the higher-tiered players deemed more start-worthy. For specific start/sit advice between two players in the same tier, refer to numberFire ’s projection model.

These tiers are meant to reflect your typical 12-team, half-PPR scoring formats with only one starting quarterback — though the general rankings can be loosely applied to most formats.

Any player not listed can be assumed sit-worthy in most leagues.

All betting references refer to the NFL odds at FanDuel Sportsbook. All statistics via NFL Next Gen Stats and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise stated.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Josh Allen (BUF)

— Patrick Mahomes (KC)

— Jalen Hurts (PHI)

— Lamar Jackson (BAL)

— Joe Burrow (CIN)

— Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

— Justin Herbert (LAC)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Dak Prescott (DAL) turned in his second consecutive top-three QB finish in Week 8. He’s now scored 24.9 and 29.1 points across his past two games — his two highest-scoring weeks of the season. The Eagles are a tough matchup, but they’ve allowed the seventh-most adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.42) to opposing quarterbacks and just allowed 397 yards and four touchdowns to Sam Howell. Prescott is a borderline must start.

— Derek Carr (NO) has been solid in fantasy the past three weeks. He’s finished as the QB10 (17.3 points), QB9 (18.4), and QB13 (18.3) over that span. The matchup is strong in Week 9, as the Bears have allowed the third-highest passing success rate (51.6%) and the second-most adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.49). Having already demonstrated a consistent floor, Carr is a top quarterback streamer in Week 9.

— Sam Howell (WSH) just keeps putting up numbers. He had a career-best 32 points against the Eagles last week and now leads all active quarterbacks with 38.5 pass attempts per game. Given that the Commanders are passing at the second-highest rate over expectation (8.5%), Howell merits starting consideration against a Patriots defense that has allowed the 10th-highest passing success rate (48.6%) and the sixth-highest EPA per drop-back (0.06).

Tier 3: On the fence

— C.J. Stroud (HOU) has come down to Earth over his past three outings with 14.1 points per game. He’s attempted just 28.7 passes per game over that span — 23rd in the league and a far cry from the 37.8 he attempted from Weeks 1-4. The Bucs have allowed the fourth-fewest adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.32), but they’re also giving up the 11th-highest EPA per drop-back (-0.01). He’s a floor play.

— Bryce Young (CAR) is trending up, averaging 15.8 points per game across his past three. It was encouraging to get a season-high 7.6 yards per attempt in Carolina’s first game with Thomas Brown calling plays, but he did attempt a season-low 31 passes in the win. Still, Young gets easily his best matchup of the season this week. The Colts have allowed the most raw points per game (28.6) and the 10th-most adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.41).

— Gardner Minshew (IND) has averaged 17.4 points per game in his four starts this season. Granted, that’s inflated by a 28.1-point outing, but he hasn’t totaled fewer than 12.6 points in any of his four starts. Minshew’s upside is capped with the Colts passing at the lowest rate over expectation (-5.6%), but there’s some touchdown upside considering Indy’s 23.5-point implied team total and Carolina’s below-average pass defense.

— Jordan Love (GB) hasn’t been great his past three games, but he’s only scored fewer than 15 fantasy points once this season. Among qualified QBs, Love ranks second in air yards per game (313.2) and first in aDOT (9.4), but a minus-6.1 completion rate over expectation has hindered his consistency. The Rams have allowed the 10th-highest EPA per drop-back (0.00) and a pedestrian 47.1% passing success rate, so the matchup isn’t horrible if you’re in a pinch.

— Will Levis (TEN) could not have asked for a better debut. He finished as the QB6 (26.6) because of 238 yards, four touchdowns, and no turnovers. It’s more than risky to play him on a short week in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers have allowed the fourth-most deep yards (1,050) in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. He’s a lotto ticket.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Geno Smith (SEA) is the only quarterback that we’d normally consider who I’m absolutely staying away from in Week 9. Smith has finished inside the top 15 at the position just once this season and has thrown five interceptions to four touchdowns in his past three games. The Ravens have allowed the second-fewest adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.30) on the season and opposing QBs have averaged just 11.1 fantasy points per game in Baltimore this season. Swing for more upside.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Alvin Kamara (NO)

— Saquon Barkley (NYG)

— Austin Ekeler (LAC)

— Breece Hall (NYJ)

— Jonathan Taylor (IND)

— Isiah Pacheco (KC)

— Raheem Mostert (MIA)

— Bijan Robinson (ATL)

— Joe Mixon (CIN)

— Derrick Henry (TEN)

— Kenneth Walker III (SEA)

— D’Andre Swift (PHI)

— Josh Jacobs (LV)

— Tony Pollard (DAL)

— Rachaad White (TB)

— Gus Edwards (BAL)

— James Cook (BUF)

— Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Chuba Hubbard (CAR) out-snapped Miles Sanders 40-12 and out-rushed him 15-2 last week, adding two receptions for good measure. That only translated to 6.4 fantasy points, but the workload was stellar. Assuming the usage holds, Hubbard is in line for a strong outing against a Colts defense allowing the fourth-most adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.67) and the eighth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.19) to opposing running backs

— Darrell Henderson & Royce Freeman (LAR) split snaps nearly 50-50, but Henderson had 18 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) to Freeman’s 9. Still, Freeman punched in a score to ensure both backs scored in double digits. With Matt Stafford banged up, expect a heavy dose of the run game against a Packers defense that is in the bottom 10 in running back rush success rate (44.4%), EPA per carry (-0.02), and adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.62).

— Zack Moss (IND) keeps producing, even as his snap share decreases (down to a season-low 38.8% in Week 8). There’s a chance his work stops, but if the opportunities are there against the Panthers, I’m optimistic. Carolina has allowed the most adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.85) and the fourth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.35) to opposing running backs. Moss has multiple paths to fantasy relevance.

— Jerome Ford & Kareem Hunt (CLE) ceded work to Pierre Strong in Week 8, but that likely had more to do with Ford’s ankle injury than Cleveland harboring a three-man backfield. Assuming Ford’s closer to 100%, I expect him and Hunt to split work pretty evenly as Strong shifts back to a change-of-pace role. Arizona has allowed the highest running back rush success rate (49.5) in the NFL, so both could feast with the Browns opening as 7 1/2-point home favorites.

— Aaron Jones (GB) has to produce eventually. Right? Jones actually had his highest snap share of the season (48.4%) last week, but that translated to just 8.8 points. Still, he received 17 adjusted opportunities and a 12.5% target share — numbers that should lead to a better fantasy outing against a Rams defense that’s middle of the pack against the run.

Tier 3: On the fence

— Alexander Mattison (MIN) had a touchdown chance taken by Cam Akers last week, but still played 62.3% of the snaps compared to Akers’ 21.7%. There’s a chance the league’s fourth-most pass-happy offense turns to the ground with Kirk Cousins sidelined, but there’s also a chance the offense sputters. Mattison’s getting 21.3 adjusted opportunities per game since Justin Jefferson was injured, but the Falcons give up the second-fewest adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.46) to RBs. The usage makes him start-able, but temper expectations.

— Brian Robinson (WSH) has as many single-digit fantasy weeks (four) as he does double-digit weeks (also four). While he still hasn’t eclipsed a 59% snap share this season, he also hasn’t finished outside the top 32 at the position. That floor will come in handy against a Pats defense allowing the lowest RB rush success rate (32.6%) in the NFL. There isn’t a lot of upside here barring a touchdown.

— D’Onta Foreman & Roschon Johnson (CHI) was always going to be a frustrating fantasy situation, but Chicago turned this into a true running back by committee with Darrynton Evans playing 27% of snaps. All three backs had double-digit adjusted opportunities and the Saints’ defense is solid, but I’m still bullish enough on Johnson’s talent to consider him in a pinch.

— Jaylen Warren & Najee Harris (PIT) had 15 and 17 adjusted opportunities last week while splitting carries. It was encouraging for Harris' stock that he had five targets (a season high). Less encouraging was his 13 rushing yards on seven attempts. Warren (five for 19) wasn’t much better, but he at least has a track record for passing game work. He’s getting 4.6 targets (14.4% share) per game and thus has more fantasy appeal against a tough Titans defense.

— Zach Charbonnet (SEA). With Ken Walker banged up, Charbonnet played a career-high 56.4% of snaps, turning five carries into 53 yards and catching both of his targets in the process. Baltimore is great against the run, and Walker could get more run this week, but at the very least we know the rookie is good.

— Tyjae Spears (TEN) fits a similar mold as Charbonnet, he’s just been doing it longer. Spears actually had his lowest snap share (43.9%) since Week 2 in their win over Atlanta, but he still received double-digit opportunities because of four targets. He ran more routes than Henry despite the snap discrepancy, so a negative game script would (in theory) put Spears on the FLEX radar. The Titans are 2.5-point underdogs, but the Steelers haven’t exactly gotten out to big leads this season.

— Justice Hill (BAL) played just eight fewer snaps than Gus Edwards last week, but he had just one red zone carry (compared to Edwards’ six). He continues to run more routes and get a higher target share than Edwards, but the Ravens’ success hasn’t put them in a lot of negative game scripts. This feels like the name-brand version of Pittsburgh’s backfield. I’m optimistic Seattle will give Baltimore a game, so Hill has some value this week.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Devin Singletary & Dameon Pierce (HOU) split snaps (23-24) and opportunities (14-12) last week, but they both had a goal-line score taken by fullback Andrew Beck. That doesn’t instill much confidence in either back going forward, but the three combining for six red zone rushes at least shows some touchdown upside. Still, I prefer to sit them both against a Bucs front that has the largest gap (-31.8) between expected (135.8) and actual (104) fantasy points allowed to the position.

— Emari Demercado (ARI) has had 22 and 23 adjusted opportunities in the past two weeks. He’s played 66.9% of snaps over that span and is clearly the Arizona back to roster, especially when Kyler Murray comes back. This week, however, Clayton Tune could make his first career start on the road against perhaps the best defense in the NFL. The Browns have allowed the fewest adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.45) to running backs, relegating Demercado to your bench unless you’re absolutely desperate.

— Miles Sanders (CAR) is clearly Chubba Hubbard’s backup. I wouldn’t cut him (yet), but there is surely a better name on the waiver wire.

— Tyler Allgeier (ATL) doesn’t have much stand-alone value with Bijan Robinson healthy and the Vikings giving up the fifth-fewest adjusted fantasy points per carry (0.48). I’d chase more upside.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Tyreek Hill (MIA)

— A.J. Brown (PHI)

— Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)

— Stefon Diggs (BUF)

— CeeDee Lamb (DAL)

— Cooper Kupp (LAR)

— Adam Thielen (CAR)

— Jaylen Waddle (MIA)

— D.K. Metcalf (SEA)

— Davante Adams (LV)

— Keenan Allen (LAC)

— Garrett Wilson (NYJ)

— Chris Olave (NO)

— DeVonta Smith (PHI)

— Puka Nacua (LAR)

— Zay Flowers (BAL)

— Puka Nacua (LAR)

— Mike Evans (TB)

— Terry McLaurin (WSH)

— Diontae Johnson (PIT)

— Michael Pittman Jr. (IND)

— Tee Higgins (CIN)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Amari Cooper (CLE) produced on the road last week and now returns home to take on an Arizona defense allowing the fourth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.57) to the position. Cooper’s been inconsistent, but he’s had at least a 20% target share in every game this season and continues to run a route on more than 85% of Cleveland’s drop-backs. You can trust him this week.

— Josh Downs (IND) is a borderline must start at this point, having eclipsed double-digit fantasy points in each of his past four games. He cleared 80% of Indy’s snaps for the first time last week and had a 20% target share for the fourth time in six games. Carolina allows the seventh-most yards per route run (1.85) and the eighth-highest aDOT (11.4) to wideouts, so make sure Downs is in your lineup.

— Chris Godwin (TB) caught a touchdown last week, but I’m more intrigued by his 17.9% target share. Though it was actually his lowest share of the season, it was also the highest mark on the Buccaneers — the third time in four weeks he’s led the way. Houston has been relatively stingy against wide receivers, but Godwin’s floor/ceiling combination is too high to sit.

— Gabriel Davis (BUF) played a different role with Dawson Knox out last week. It did him a lot of favors fantasy-wise, as he turned in his best performance of the season. He tied Stefon Diggs for the team lead in target share (30.8%) and route participation (100%). If you’re running a route on 100% of Josh Allen’s drop-backs, you have a spot in my fantasy lineup, especially with Buffalo’s 23-point implied team total this week.

— Rashid Shaheed & Michael Thomas (NO) play the same position on the same team, yet have entirely opposite fantasy profiles. Thomas continues to provide a steady floor — he’s yet to finish with fewer than seven points, but also doesn’t have more than 12 in any week. Meanwhile, Shaheed has scored 16-plus points three times but has also failed to reach seven points on four occasions. This week, deciding between the two isn’t difficult. Start them both against a Bears defense that’s last against the pass, according to numberFire’s metrics.

— Nico Collins (HOU) has cooled off after a torrid first four weeks, but he still dominated Houston’s target (25%) and air yard (44.5%) shares with Tank Dell back. Getting nearly seven targets a game while posting an 11.8 aDOT puts you into weekly starting conversation. That’s especially true against a Tampa Bay secondary that was just blitzed by Buffalo and allows the eighth-most yard per route run (1.79) to opposing wide receivers.

— Rashee Rice (KC) trends up a little further on this list every week, but he’s still searching for a true breakout performance. That’ll come soon enough as Rice led Kansas City’s receivers in snaps (35), targets (five), and routes (25) for the first time in Week 8. The overseas games can be tricky fantasy-wise, but it’s hard not to be optimistic about his chances this week given their week-high 50.5-point total.

Tier 3: On the fence

— D.J. Moore (CHI) did not enjoy Tyson Bagent's second start nearly as much as the original. After getting a 32.1% target share in Bagent’s first start, Moore’s share dipped to 16.2% last week — his lowest since Week 1. The Saints are familiar with Moore going back to his Carolina days and Bagent didn’t inspire much confidence last week. He’s not an auto-sit, but I’m not thrilled to start him.

— Drake London (ATL) got banged up last week and consequently only played 54.5% of Atlanta’s snaps. If he’s cleared for Week 9, London would be in a good spot to produce against a Vikings secondary that allows the third-highest target rate (23%) and the sixth-most yards per route run (1.88) to wide receivers.

— DeAndre Hopkins (TEN) secured four of six targets for 128 yards and a whopping three touchdowns in Week 8. I’m not banking on that happening again, but he was due for some TD luck. While Will Levis is a huge question mark, there’s upside against the Steelers. They’ve given up the ninth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.52) to wideouts.

— George Pickens (PIT) saved his fantasy day with a touchdown, but secured just one of his five targets. He and Diontae Johnson both produced the week prior, so I won’t go as far as to say Pickens isn’t fantasy-viable, but the floor is clearly lower. Thankfully, the ceiling is pretty high this week. Tennessee has allowed the fifth-most adjusted fantasy points and the third-most yards per route run (1.95) to wide receivers.

— Jakobi Meyers (LV) is certainly risky, but I like him to bounce back with Josh McDaniels fired and if Jimmy G is benched. He only had a 10.5% target share in Aidan O’Connell’s first start, but caught a touchdown from him in Week 7. The Giants have allowed the fourth-most yards per route run (1.90) and the highest target rate (23.3%) to wide receivers, so there’s sneaky upside here.

— Tyler Lockett & Jaxon Smith-Njigba (SEA) both had solid Week 8 performances, albeit through different lanes. Lockett had his second-highest target share (25%) of the season and tied his season high with eight receptions, while Smith-Njigba caught a touchdown for the second consecutive week. Baltimore has allowed the second-fewest adjusted fantasy points per target (1.09) to wide receivers, but there’s enough upside in a negative game script for both players to deliver FLEX-worthy weeks.

— Jordan Addison (MIN) takes a huge hit with Kirk Cousins out. He’s led the Vikings with a 20.9% target share over the past four weeks and has upside against a Falcons D giving up the fifth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.57), but remains a risky play with rookie Jaren Hall under center.

— Brandin Cooks & Michael Gallup (DAL) have upside with a 46-point total and Dallas being a three-point underdog. Philly has given up the second-highest WR target rate (23%), and they’re both running a route on more than 75% drop-backs. Despite that, both remain fringe FLEX plays as clear second options to CeeDee Lamb.

— Tyler Boyd (CIN) had a touchdown for the second consecutive game last week, but had his target share dwindle to a season-low 9.4%. His upside takes a hit with Tee Higgins getting healthier, but Cincy’s second-ranked 25.5-point implied team total retains Boyd’s touchdown upside.

— Tank Dell (HOU) was quiet in his return, but notably ran a route on 92.3% of CJ Stroud’s drop-backs. He flashed a ton of potential earlier in the season and has upside against a Buccaneers defense allowing the most slot points per game (22.4), per Razzball.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Marquise Brown (ARI) scored a late touchdown to salvage his fantasy performance, but he’s now been held to fewer than 50 yards in three consecutive games after eclipsing that mark each of the previous four weeks. The Browns have allowed the lowest catch rate (51.2%) and the seventh-fewest adjusted fantasy points per target (1.29) to receivers, relegating Brown to the bench if Clayton Tune makes his first career start.

— Josh Palmer & Quentin Johnston (LAC) combined for a 25.8% target share in Week 8. I’m bullish on them the rest of season, but you can fade both in Week 9. The Jets have held opposite wide receivers to the lowest target rate (15.7%) and the fewest adjusted fantasy points per target (0.93).

— K.J. Osborn (MIN) has all the downside of Jordan Addison, but none of the upside in Week 9. He’s an easy sit despite the matchup.

— Jahan Dotson & Curtis Samuel (WSH) are second options to Terry McLaurin in this Washington offense, so it’s hard to trust either in a tough matchup against the Patriots. That said, New England has allowed a 20.6% target share to receivers, so there’s upside with Dotson if Samuel is limited.

— Romeo Doubs & Christian Watson (GB) have a sneaky-tough matchup against the Rams and haven’t been anything close to reliable this season. Doubs has touchdown upside, and Watson is a threat to break off a big play, but there are too many viable WRs this week to warrant trusting them.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Travis Kelce (KC)

— Mark Andrews (BAL)

— Dallas Goedert (PHI)

— T.J. Hockenson (MIN)

— Dalton Kincaid (BUF)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Jake Ferguson (DAL) is coming off his best fantasy performance (12.7 points) of the season and faces an Eagles defense allowing the second-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.71) to tight ends. He’s almost a must start in a tough week for tight ends.

— David Njoku (CLE) may be better in fantasy without Deshaun Watson. With Watson out, Njoku has garnered a 21.2% target share and averaged 8.8 fantasy points per game. The Cardinals have strong numbers against tight ends, but they’re a struggling defense overall.

— Cole Kmet (CHI) bounced back in Tyson Bagent’s second start, getting a 27% target share and totaling 79 yards. The Saints have been pretty middle of the pack against tight ends, but they’ve allowed the highest aDOT (8.3) to them. There’s upside in a negative game script as long as the usage remains strong.

— Kyle Pitts (ATL) is a pretty sound floor play this week, regardless of who’s starting at quarterback. Pitts has hovered around an 18.2% target share all season and, although he only had two targets with Taylor Heinicke under center, should produce against a Vikings defense allowing a 75.5% catch rate to tight ends.

— Trey McBride (ARI) had 20.5 points, getting a 38.9% target share in his first game without Zach Ertz. Obviously, he won’t sustain that, and if Clayton Tune is making his first career start in Cleveland, that doesn’t give McBride a very high floor. However, the Browns have been vulnerable to tight ends, so I’d be hard-pressed to fade him after last week.

— Taysom Hill (NO) is the TE2 (15.2 points per game) over the past three weeks. Even with Juwan Johnson returning to take some of Hill's route participation, he had his best fantasy performance of the season. He has a ton of touchdown upside against the Bears with New Orleans having a 24.25-point implied team total.

Tier 3: On the fence

— Logan Thomas (WSH) had another strong outing last week and scored his second-most fantasy points (13.4) of the season. The Pats have been pretty stingy, and Thomas’ usage fluctuates, but he’d be a must start if Curtis Samuel couldn’t go. For now, he’s merely a dart throw.

— Darren Waller (NYG) suffered a hamstring injury and his status for Week 9 is uncertain. If he does play, Waller would be a smash start. The Raiders give up the ninth-highest target rate (18.8%) to tight ends, and it’s a game against his former team. Pay attention to his status leading up to Sunday.

— Luke Musgrave (GB) continues to play a ton of snaps (74.2% last week) and run a good number of routes (62.2%), but he had his lowest target share of the season (7.5%) against the Vikings. While the Rams allow the most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.81) to tight ends, Musgraves’s inconsistent usage makes him difficult to trust.

— Cade Otton (TB) is a sneaky tight end streamer if you’re desperate this week. Otton has run a route on 89.8% of Tampa Bay’s drop-backs over the past three weeks and he now faces a Texans team allowing the third-highest target rate (21.7%) and fourth-most yards per route run (1.63) to the position.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Gerald Everett & Donald Parham Jr. (LAC) don’t have much appeal if they’re both active. Even with Everett out last week, Parham had just 13.2% of LA’s targets. The Jets have allowed the fifth-most adjusted fantasy points per target (1.55) to tight ends, but they’ve also held them to the sixth-lowest aDOT (5.7). Avoid this TE timeshare.


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