By Matt Citak
We are entering Week 9 of the NFL schedule, which means we are officially in the second half of the season. This is significant for teams around the league as they prepare for a postseason push, but more importantly, it is imperative to note because it means we’re entering crunch time of the fantasy football season. Most fantasy playoffs begin in Week 14, which means there are only five games left to secure a spot in your league’s playoffs. Every game and every point counts in these final few weeks, as you never know what play could be difference between you making or missing the playoffs.
That being said, here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 9 Fantasy Football Starts and Sits.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford is coming off one of his best games of the season, despite not lighting up the fantasy scoreboard. Going up against the Steelers and their top-ranked pass defense, the 29-year-old threw for 423 yards, but failed to find the end zone, leaving his fantasy owners wanting more. Stafford now has at least 17 points in three consecutive games, and gets to face the Packers this week on Monday Night Football. Over his last five meetings against Green Bay, he is averaging 282.2 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The extra day of rest should also help No. 1 receiver Golden Tate. Stafford could end up being a top quarterback this week.
QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
If you would have told me before the start of the season that at the midway point, Alex Smith would be right in the middle of the MVP race, I would have thought you were crazy. Yet here we are entering Week 9, and Smith has a 69.1 completion percentage for 2,181 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. The Cowboys have done a good job of limiting C.J. Beathard and Kirk Cousins over the last two games, but prior to that, the Dallas defense allowed Trevor Siemian, Carson Palmer, Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers to each score at least 22 fantasy points. With the way the Chiefs offense is rolling this year, Smith is a top quarterback this week.
QB: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
This might seem interesting considering the Panthers just traded No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills for draft picks, but I’m sticking with Newton. Cam has shown flashes of brilliance this season, including a two game stretch against the Lions and Patriots in which he completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 671 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception, adding 44 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. His rushing stats have boosted his numbers a good amount over the last three weeks, as he is averaging 55 rushing yards over that span. Atlanta has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games, and Newton should be able to push that streak to four.
RB: Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
It’s hard to believe Peterson is in the “Start” section with Drew Stanton under center for the Cardinals, but the matchup is just too good. The 49ers are averaging 131.8 rushing yards allowed per game this season, which ranks 29th in the NFL, while their nine rushing touchdowns allowed ranks 31st. Peterson is 32-years-old now, and while he proved a few weeks ago that he still has some gas left in the tank, it never hurts to have fresh legs. Arizona is coming off their bye week, so Peterson should be fresh and ready to go. With an extra week to prepare, one would also hope that Stanton will not be as bad as he was in London. Fire Peterson up as an RB2 this week, but don’t be surprised if he ends up posting RB1 numbers.
RB: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Due to his suspension to start the season, Martin has carried the ball only 65 times for 247 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns this season. Those are far from outstanding numbers, but with the volume he has been receiving, he remains a strong RB2. Martin has received at least 19 touches in the last two games, and has gotten at least 14 in all four games he has played in. With Jameis Winston banged up, and facing a Saints defense that allows 120.3 rushing yards per game, along with 4.9 yards per carry, Martin could be in line for a big game this week.
RB: Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens
Collins has looked outstanding this season, despite not getting many opportunities. The second-year running back has carried the ball just 80 times in 2017, but has turned those attempts into an impressive 478 yards. His 6.0 yards per carry leads the NFL, and he is coming off his best game of the season. In Week 8, Collins ran the ball 18 times for 113 yards (6.3 yards per carry) while adding two receptions for 30 yards (his first two catches of the year). Head coach John Harbaugh has since said that the young running back has earned more carries, which is great news for anyone that was fortunate enough to snag Collins on waivers.
WR: Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
An injured shoulder did not slow Tate down last week, as the 5-foot-10 receiver caught seven-of-eight targets for 86 yards against the Steelers and their top-ranked pass defense. This week’s matchup is a lot easier as the Lions travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Monday. Green Bay has allowed eight different wide receivers to score at least 15 fantasy points against them this season, which leads the league. Tate runs most of his routes out of the slot, and Green Bay’s slot cornerback, Damarious Randall, ranks towards the bottom among the league’s corners. I’m starting both Tate and Marvin Jones with confidence this week.
WR: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
If you have Cooper on your fantasy team this season, it’s likely that you have a love-hate relationship with him. After erupting for 11 receptions, 210 yards, and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 7, the third-year receiver fell back down to earth last week, catching only five-of-10 targets for 48 yards. This sort of roller coaster ride for Cooper is quite frustrating for fantasy owners, but this week should see another solid performance from him. The Raiders will battle the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday night. The Dolphins have surrendered three touchdowns to wide receivers in their past two games against the Jets and Ravens, whose offenses are nowhere near as strong as Oakland’s. Expect a good performances from both Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
WR: DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
After all of the preseason hype about Parker, it’s hard to categorize this season as anything short of a bust thus far. The young receiver has only played in three full games, and has caught just 18 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown during those contests. He has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, but finally looks in line to play this weekend against the Raiders. Parker thrives with the deep ball, evidenced by his league-leading 3.0 deep targets per game. The Raiders are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers on deep passes. These two statistics, combined with the fact that quarterback Jay Cutler will return to the lineup this week, has me feeling great about Parker in this Week 9 matchup.
TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Doyle is coming off a career game. In the Colts’ 23-24 loss to the Bengals in Week 8, the tight end caught 12-of-14 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown. Doyle has been a solid fantasy option over the last month, but his performance last week is likely to be his best of the season. That said, he has 32 targets over the last three weeks, and with that sort of volume in the passing game, Doyle remains a very viable fantasy option. The Colts face the Houston Texans this week, who have allowed three touchdowns to tight ends in their last two games. Doyle could have another very solid outing this Sunday.
TE: Evan Engram, New York Giants
It was Week 5 when Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all went with injuries during New York’s fifth consecutive loss to start the season. Since then, the Giants have had matchups against arguably the two best defenses in the NFL with games against the Broncos and Seahawks. Facing those tough defensive units, Engram caught 11-of-19 targets for 142 yards and two touchdowns. While the Rams have been solid against opposing tight ends this season, the Giants rookie tight end has proven that he plays a very large role in New York’s passing game, and should be started regardless of the matchup. The return of Shepard might take some targets away from Engram, but it should also help open up the field for the young tight end. Engram should be a solid starter, both this week and for the rest of the season.
QB: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Don’t let Deshaun Watson’s explosion against the Seahawks last week fool you… this is still one of the best defenses in the NFL. A lot of Watson’s success was due to his ability as a mobile playmaker, something that Cousins is not. The Redskins are still dealing with a rash of injuries along the offensive line, which is major cause for concern with a matchup against Seattle’s defensive line this weekend. The Seahawks defense is likely to come out with a chip on its shoulder after being dismantled by a rookie in Week 8. Look for Cousins to post his second consecutive dud performance.
QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan had one of his best games of the year last week against the lowly New York Jets, throwing for 254 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-20 Falcons win. This was the first time Ryan had accounted for more than one touchdown since Week 3, which shows how off this Atlanta offense has been following their historical campaign in 2016. Last week was certainly a step in the right direction for Ryan, but facing a matchup against the Panthers in Week 9, last year’s MVP is likely to take another step back. Carolina has allowed just 182 passing yards per game, which ranks 3rd in the league, and Ryan has yet to score 20 fantasy points in a game this season. Ryan could get his season on-track, but it is unlikely to happen this week.
QB: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
It took until halfway through the season, but everyone around the league is finally taking the Jacksonville Jaguars defense seriously. The Jaguars rank first in the NFL in passing yards allowed (162 yards per game) and opposing passer rating (61.6), and have not allowed an opposing quarterback to score more than 14 fantasy points in a game. I almost forgot, they lead the NFL in sacks as well… Dalton has looked a lot better since the Bengals 0-2 start, but he is an easy fade this week.
RB: C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
Anderson has actually looked solid this season, taking 107 carries for 469 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. However he has been losing more and more touches to both Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker as the season progresses, and is no longer a big part of the passing game. Anderson has seen just three targets over Denver’s last three games, while Booker has 13. Denver faces the Eagles this week, who have allowed the second-fewest rushing fantasy points per game this season. However, Philadelphia has allowed the fourth-most receiving fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. This adds up to Anderson not playing a big role in this weekend’s matchup.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles
Tuesday’s trade gives a big boost to Ajayi’s value for the rest of the season. It’s not often that a player as talented as Ajayi is traded from the league’s worst offense to one of the league’s best offenses. However, Ajayi and his fantasy owners are not likely to reap the benefits of this trade until after Philadelphia’s Week 10 bye. As previously noted, the Eagles face the Broncos this weekend. Having only five days to learn the offense, along with facing a Broncos defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, is more than enough for me to bench Ajayi this week. But my eyes are set on Week 11 for his return to my starting lineup.
RB: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
Gore faces a similar issue as Anderson in that his team has a younger back that has played better in fewer opportunities while being more of a feature in the passing game. Gore is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry on 110 rushing attempts, while Marlon Mack has carried the ball 43 times for 183 yards, leaving him with 4.3 yards per carry. The Colts have made it clear that they prefer to use Mack in games that they are trailing, due to his better pass-catching abilities. Indianapolis is 13-point underdogs this week against the Texans. The Colts will be chasing points, which makes Mack a much stronger play than Gore.
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffery was able to salvage his day last week with an impressive 53-yard touchdown catch, his first since Week 4. Even so, you would like to see more than two receptions from Philadelphia’s No. 1 receiver. Jeffery has received 24 targets over the last three weeks, so the volume is there for the 6-foot-3 receiver. However this Sunday, Jeffery and the Eagles welcome the Broncos to Lincoln Financial Field. The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and Jeffery will see coverage from either Chris Harris Jr. or Aqib Talib, neither of which bode well for the Philly wide receiver.
WR: Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans
Expectations were high for Matthews following his solid 2016 campaign. However in seven games this season, the sixth-year wide receiver has caught just 27-of-48 targets for 393 yards and one touchdown. The Titans have been playing without their first round pick, wideout Corey Davis, since Week 2, yet Matthews has not been able to take advantage of his time as the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game. With Davis back this week, both Matthews and Eric Decker are likely to see fewer targets. Tennessee is also going up against the Baltimore Ravens, who have been one of the stingiest against opposing wide receivers this year. The Ravens have surrendered just three touchdowns to opposing WRs all season. I’m sitting all of the Titans’ receivers this week.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills
Benjamin is in a similar boat as Ajayi in that he was just traded to a new team this week. However the Bills play on Thursday Night Football this week, meaning even if Benjamin is active, he will likely be on a limited snap count as he does not yet know Buffalo’s offense. Tyrod Taylor is going to love targeting the 6-foot-5 Benjamin in the end zone, but it is unrealistic to expect much from the talented receiver just two days after being shipped to Buffalo. Wait until next week to fire Benjamin up in your lineup.
TE: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker suffered a bone bruise in his right ankle during the Titans’ Week 7 12-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns, and despite having the bye week to recover, he has not been able to participate in practice this week. The veteran tight end still has one more practice to prove he’s healthy enough to suit up on Sunday, but even if he does play, this isn’t the best matchup. Baltimore has been able to limit Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph to four fantasy points or less recently, but has also allowed six touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year. Considering Walker is yet to catch a touchdown pass in 2017, it’s hard to believe that this week, with a bum ankle, he will break that trend.
TE: Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
Hooper is coming off a strong outing against the Jets in Week 8, where he caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. But in games where Mohamed Sanu has been active, the tight end is averaging a mere 3.3 targets per game. The Panthers have done a good job of stopping opposing tight ends, as Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are the only two tight ends to finish with over 29 receiving yards against the Carolina defense. While Zach Ertz and Darren Fells were both able to catch two touchdowns when facing the Panthers, those were there only catches of those respective games. Hooper could find the end zone, but without a score, will end up having a dud of a performance in Week 9.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.