Happy halfway(ish) point of the 2019 NFL Season! There’s been some expected results (the Jets and Giants are terrible, the Saints and Patriots are good) and some unexpected results (The 49ers are undefeated and the Falcons are dreadful).
The same can be said for Fantasy Football. Let’s get to some Week 9 Hot Plays and Hesitations.
Week 9 Fantasy Football Hot Plays And Hesitations
Matthew Stafford, Lions (@ Raiders)
Quietly the QB9 entering Week 9, Stafford has been hot lately. Over his last two games, he’s passed for 706 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Since Week 4, he’s passed for 265 yards or more in all four games and has thrown at least three passing touchdowns in three of them.
In Week 9, Stafford takes on a porous Oakland pass defense that has allowed 285.3 passing yards per game (third-most), 19 passing touchdowns (tied for second-most) and has just three interceptions on the season (tied for second-fewest). Pick him up and play him with confidence this week.
Josh Allen, Bills (Vs. Redskins)
Allen has disappointed to a degree this year considering his lofty preseason expectations. He has, however, been one of the more reliable options at the position. Aside from a Week 4 drubbing by the New England Patriots, Allen has scored at least 16 fantasy points in every game. He also averages about 7.5 carries per game, which only adds to his value. Washington is allowing opposing Quarterbacks to complete 72.7% of their passes (second-highest). They have also allowed 14 passing touchdowns (tied for fifth-most).
The Bills will be looking to bounce back at home against a bad Redskins team. I think Allen has a big game in this one, so strongly consider starting him.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (@ Giants)
Dak has cooled off a little bit since his scorching hot start to the season. In his last four games, he’s only passed for multiple touchdowns once. In that game, he also threw three interceptions. Prescott has been helped by rushing scores in each of his last two games. Otherwise, the overall numbers haven’t been too inspiring lately.
However, in Week 9, Dak gets to face a Giants squad that he torched for 405 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1. Though the game is in New Jersey and the Giants just traded for Leonard Williams, this game should create a high floor and a high ceiling for Prescott. The Giants have allowed 264.4 passing yards per game (eighth-most), 13 passing touchdowns (tied for sixth-most) and a 70.2% completion rate to opposing Quarterbacks (fourth-worst). Start Dak this week.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (Vs. 49ers)
Kyler Murray has had a solid inaugural season so far. Before a rough two week stretch against the Giants and Saints in Weeks 7-8, Murray averaged 21.1 Fantasy Points per game. He enters Week 9 as the QB8 on the season.
Unfortunately, his reward is hosting the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense on a short week. The 49ers are 8-0 and are allowing an average of 128.7 passing yards per game (tops in the NFL). They’ve given up just five passing touchdowns (tied for second-fewest) and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 54.5% of their passes (second-lowest). Murray has shown an ability to run effectively (51 carries for 279 yards and two touchdowns), which further adds to his value. However, the 49ers have allowed two rushing scores all year (second-fewest).
It’s a short week and a terrible matchup. Don’t start the young rookie.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (Vs. Patriots)
It may sound ridiculous to suggest benching the QB1 in Fantasy through half of the season. And, it is ridiculous if you have no other options and are in a deep league, where your backup options include Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dwayne Haskins Jr.
However, if you have viable alternatives, strongly consider them. I am a Jackson fan and am not trying to rain on his parade. But what stellar defenses has he torched this year? He had 330 total yards of offense and five touchdowns against Miami in Week 1. He had 392 total yards of offense and two touchdowns against Arizona in Week 2. 313 total yards and one touchdown against Kansas City. 313 yards with three touchdowns (and two interceptions) against Cleveland. 231 yards and one touchdown (with three interceptions) against Pittsburgh. 388 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati. Finally, 259 yards with one touchdown against Seattle.
The Patriots have allowed 148.8 passing yards per game (second-fewest) and only two passing touchdowns. Two! They’re allowing a league-best 52.4% completion percentage among opposing Quarterbacks. New England’s 19 interceptions and 31 sacks both lead the league.
Jackson also does much of his damage on the ground, but the Patriots have allowed only 85.2 rushing yards per game (fourth-fewest) and two rushing touchdowns (tied for second-fewest).
To be sure, the Patriots haven’t played many (if any) elite offenses. But that defense is legit. You’re not necessarily benching him. But, if you have another reliable option, strongly consider it.
Carson Wentz, Eagles (Vs. Bears)
The vaunted Chicago defense has not been nearly as good as last year. However, that doesn’t mean I like Wentz in this matchup. The Bears are still allowing an average of 230.6 passing yards per game (top-10) despite a schedule that has featured the Packers, Vikings, and Saints. Chicago has only allowed seven passing touchdowns (tied for fourth-fewest).
I’m not necessarily saying to bench Wentz. Again, if there are better options out there, consider starting them. There are a number of outstanding matchups for Quarterbacks this week, so admittedly, this one is a bit borderline.
Le’Veon Bell, Jets (@ Dolphins)
The Jets are a dysfunctional mess right now and it’s entirely possible that they lose this game to an even worse Dolphins team. However, you have to figure that Bell will be more involved than in Week 8. In a loss against the Jaguars, the former Steeler was given nine carries. Sam Darnold is slightly banged up, so the Jets may try to lean heavily on Bell in this one.
It also doesn’t hurt that Miami has given up 160.4 rushing yards per game (second-worst), eight rushing scores (tied for fourth-most) and 4.8 yards per carry (tied for fourth-most). Bell is an outstanding receiving back, and the Dolphins ain’t too good against the pass either. Bell should vault his way back into fantasy relevancy in this one.
Derrick Henry, Titans (@ Panthers)
Yes, this one may seem obvious but consider the fact that Henry has reached the 100-yard plateau once in eight games this year. He’s averaging 3.8 yards per carry (37th in the NFL), offers essentially nothing in the passing game and has scored 14+ points in PPR formats just three times this year.
While Carolina’s pass defense and pass rush has been much improved this year, their run defense leaves something to be desired. The Panthers have allowed 5.0 yards per carry (second-most in the NFL), 135.1 rushing yards per game (sixth-worst) and 12 rushing scores (most in the league). They’re struggling mightily and I expect Henry to feast on them this week.
Austin Ekeler, Chargers (Vs. Packers)
Despite the return of Melvin Gordon, Ekeler still ranks as the RB4 heading into Week 9. He’s lost most of his workload on the ground (only 16 carries over his last four games), but has maintained elite production due to his emergence as an important receiving option for the Chargers. In that same span, he’s totaled 27 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns. On the year, he leads all Running Backs with catches (51) and receiving yards (507).
In Week 9, he takes on a Green Bay squad that, while outstanding, hasn’t been great against opposing backs. The Packers are allowing over 27 fantasy points per game to opposing Running Backs. They have allowed 123.8 rushing yards per game (ninth-most), 4.8 yards per carry (tied for fourth-most) and eight rushing scores (tied for fourth-most). Don’t start Ekeler as your RB1, but you should be good to slot him in as an RB2/3 or even better, as your Flex.
Chris Carson, Seahawks (Vs. Bucs)
***Disclaimer: I am not saying to bench Carson this week! The volume is too consistently great for that. What I am saying, is to be reasonable in your expectations and look for other options if you have them. Why?
Tampa stinks, but their run defense has actually been quietly outstanding. They’ve allowed 68.6 rushing yards per game (best in the NFL, nobody else is within 15 yards of that), 3.0 yards per carry (again, best in the NFL) and six rushing scores (tied for sixth-fewest). They’ve done this while having to face Christian McCaffrey (twice), Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, and Derrick Henry.
Carson is averaging just shy of 20 carries per game, though he only has three rushing scores on the year. If you can, downgrade him to a Flex in this one.
Damien Williams / LeSean McCoy, Chiefs (Vs. Vikings)
Patrick Mahomes should miss Week 9’s tilt against Minnesota, giving the start to Matt Moore. Regardless of who is behind center, neither member of Kansas City’s backfield should be trusted in this one. Neither has particularly excelled this season. McCoy is averaging just 8.6 rush attempts and 45.3 rushing yards per game, with two scores. Williams is averaging 8.0 attempts per game, 2.1 yards per carry and has scored twice.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have featured one of the NFL’s best run defenses this season. They’ve allowed 89.4 rushing yards per game (seventh fewest) and only one rushing score (fewest in the NFL). We don’t know how the volume split will go, we don’t know how Moore/a hobbled Mahomes will play, but we do know that the Vikings have an outstanding rush defense. Stay clear of these two.
Ty Johnson, Lions (@ Raiders)
Johnson was the darling of last week’s waiver wire, but fantasy owners were left feeling disappointed. In his first “start”, Johnson totaled seven carries for 25 yards. Tra Carson handled much of the workload in what was very much a committee approach.
Though the Raiders have a porous pass defense, the rush defense has been pretty solid in the first half of 2019. Oakland has surrendered 92.9 rushing yards per game (ninth-fewest), 3.7 yards per carry (tied for fourth-fewest) and five rushing touchdowns (tied for fifth-fewest).
If last week was any indication, it seems that the Lions may be content to try to win on the arm of Matthew Stafford. Either way, the 70.2% of ESPN owners who are rostering Johnson should be extremely leery of starting him. Don’t.
DJ Chark, Jaguars (Vs. Texans)
He’s a must-start on a weekly basis, much as I learned to my displeasure last week. Chark is tied for the NFL lead with six receiving touchdowns and is seventh with 660 receiving yards. He’s been held to single-digit fantasy points only twice.
This week, Chark and the Jaguars take on a worse than expected Houston secondary that has allowed 276.8 passing yards per game (fifth-most), 18 passing touchdowns (tied for third-most) and only has two interceptions for the season (tied for second-fewest). They’ve allowed 43.1 weekly fantasy points to opposing Wide Receivers, most in the league. Gardner Minshew has been remarkably stable and is a borderline top-10 Quarterback this season. Chark enters Week 9 as the WR5 in Fantasy Football, so start him and don’t hesitate.
Allen Robinson II, Bears (@ Eagles)
The Chicago offense can…shall we say, lack excitement at times? They’ve certainly disappointed, but one bright spot has been Allen Robinson. The former Jaguar looks fully healthy this season and has proven to be one of the most consistent players at his position. He’s caught five or more passes in five straight games and has three touchdowns in that span. Robinson enters Week 9 as the WR14 in the sport, despite the team’s overall offensive struggles.
The Eagles have shown an ability to stop the run, but have yet to do so against the pass. Philadelphia has allowed 256.1 passing yards per game (top-half), but has surrendered 14 passing touchdowns (fourth-most). Regardless, Robinson should find enough volume in this one to be worthy of Flex consideration. Take the chance and start him.
Marvin Jones Jr, Lions (@ Raiders)
See Stafford, Matthew. Kenny Golladay is the obvious choice here but I think there’s enough room in this one for more than one Detroit Wide Receiver to shine. Jones has definitely been feast or famine this year, but his 10/93/4 stat line in Week 7 highlights what he is capable of. The Raiders have a solid run defense but one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. As mentioned, I think the Lions will just have Stafford try to throw 40+ times, which leaves a whole lot of room for Jones to shine. He’s a strong option for the week.
Terry McLaurin, Redskins (@ Bills)
The rookie has shown that he is a legitimate talent. However, he’s also shown a susceptibility against good secondaries. In two games against terrible pass defenses, he’s averaged just shy of 25 points per game in PPR scoring. In two games against slightly above-average pass defenses, he’s averaged roughly 18 points per game. Finally, in three games against strong pass defenses, he’s averaged roughly six points per game.
This week, the Redskins travel to take on the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo has allowed 194.4 passing yards per game (third-fewest), five passing scores (tied for second-fewest), 6.0 yards per completion (third-fewest) and a 59.9% completion rate (tied for fourth-lowest). The Bills may have a few questions on the offensive side of the football, but from a defensive perspective, they’re outstanding. Washington simply is not good and McLaurin is an extremely risky play this week.
Odell Beckham Jr, Browns (@ Broncos)
Statistically, he’s nowhere near the same OBJ that we once saw play for the Big Blue. Odell shredded the Jets in Week 2 (6/161/1). Unfortunately for owners, that’s his only score this year. In his other six games, Beckham Jr. has caught 28 passes for 327 yards. Fair for borderline Flex production, but not up to his previous standards. OBJ has specifically disappointed against top-tier secondaries, combining for a 9/99/0 stat line against the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and New England Patriots.
In Week 9, the Browns will travel to take on the Denver Broncos. Denver has allowed 194.8 passing yards per game (fourth-fewest), six passing touchdowns (tied for third-fewest) and 6.5 yards per completion (fifth-lowest). Additionally, Chris Harris Jr. is likely to shadow Beckham. Cleveland is reeling, the Broncos have an excellent pass defense and this is an extremely risky play. At the very least, don’t start him as a WR1 this week.
Alshon Jeffery, Eagles (Vs. Bears)
I have a tough time trusting Jeffery on a weekly basis. He hasn’t played well against good pass defenses (Green Bay, Dallas, Buffalo) and has played well against poor pass defenses (Washington and Minnesota: yes, the Vikings have given up 14 passing touchdowns, tied for fifth-most). The Bears have a statistically comparable pass defense to Dallas, and the Cowboys just held Jeffery to two catches for 38 yards in Week 7. He could have a solid game in this one, but I get a nagging feeling that the floor is super low. Be careful.
Darren Fells, Texans (@ Jaguars)
Quietly, Fells enters Week 9 as the TE8. He’s only owned in 26.8% of ESPN leagues, so he’s available as a fantastic streaming option for the week. He has five receiving touchdowns on the season, and four of them are in his last four games. Fells has been targeted 15 times in his last three games and has caught 14 of them.
The Jaguars have a middle of the pack pass defense and have traded Jalen Ramsey. Will Fuller will miss this game, which may help to maintain Fells’ strong target share. Also, Deshaun Watson is capable of having a monster performance at any time. Fells should provide you with a stable floor, at the very least. Pick him up and start him.
Hunter Henry, Chargers (Vs. Packers)
The Packers boast an improved defense, but it is largely predicated on turnovers. Green Bay has eight interceptions, tied for third-most in the NFL. The Packers have allowed 11 passing touchdowns (tied for eighth-most) and 7.8 yards per reception (eighth-most).
Henry missed four games due to injury but still enters Week 9 as the TE12. When healthy, he’s remarkably consistent. In four games, Henry has totaled 22 catches on 28 targets for 304 yards and two touchdowns. The volume is so reliable on a weekly basis that it’s tough to sit him in any given week. This is not the week to consider benching him. The Packers have been vulnerable to the position, and Henry is a near-lock for at least four or five catches. Play him with confidence.
Mark Andrews, Ravens (Vs. Patriots)
I like Andrews, but if you look closer at his numbers, they’ve been inflated by Weeks 1-2 against Miami and Arizona, two of the worst defenses in the NFL. In these two contests, he totaled 16 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns. In his next five games, Andrews has totaled 20 catches for 229 yards and one touchdown.
This week, he gets a real test against the Iron Curtain that is the New England defense. I expect the Patriots to slow down Lamar Jackson, and if that happens, it should affect Andrews. Even if Jackson is able to account for 250-300 yards of total offense, much of this might be on the ground, leaving little room for Andrews. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t snag at least three or four passes, but I’m just saying to temper your expectations and consider another option if you have one. Don’t necessarily bench him if your only alternative is someone like Ryan Griffin. However, the matchup makes me nervous.
Greg Olsen, Panthers (Vs. Titans)
The veteran Olsen started off the year strong, catching 16 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games. Since then, he’s caught eight passes for 70 yards and no touchdowns in four games. Cam Newton will miss this game, which means that Kyle Allen will get another starting nod. Since Allen took over, Olsen’s production has taken a noticeable hit.
The Titans aren’t great against the pass, but I expect this to be a somewhat run-heavy affair. They’re above average and I simply don’t trust Olsen enough at this point to keep rolling him out. At the very least, there are comparable or better options available for you. Go elsewhere this week.
Panthers (Vs. Titans)
The Panthers continue to be one of the strongest defenses in the NFL. The run defense isn’t great, but Carolina has allowed 215.1 passing yards per game (fifth-fewest) and nine passing touchdowns (tied for fifth-fewest). More importantly, they have 10 interceptions (tied for second-most) and 30 sacks (second-most). At the very least, they’re a good bet to get you a few sacks and possibly a turnover or two on a weekly basis.
The Titans are somewhat anemic on offense, featuring a decent running game and an uninspiring passing game. Ryan Tannehill recently replaced Marcus Mariota as the starting Quarterback, so that tells you all you need to know. Give me a top-5 defense at home against a struggling (to say the least) offense any day. They’re only rostered in 58% of ESPN leagues, yet they’re the No. 3 scoring defense in Fantasy. Pick them up and play them this week.
Seahawks (Vs. Bucs)
Call this one a hunch because it could certainly go either way. The Seahawks are thriving thanks to a dynamic offense. However, this has been in spite of a regressed defense (compared to past years). Tampa Bay (and Jameis Winston specifically) is a turnover machine and allows an ungodly amount of sacks. I think Seattle wins big in this one and Winston should be a lock to turn the ball over at least once (if not four times). The Seahawks only have 13 sacks (tied for fifth-fewest) but Tampa’s offensive line is terrible. If you’re in need of a streaming option with upside this week, the Seahawks are available in most leagues.
Cowboys (@ Giants)
The Cowboys are owned in just over half of ESPN leagues, so they’re another great streaming option against a Giants offense that’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate. The Cowboys have only allowed six passing touchdowns all season (tied for third-fewest). They didn’t do much against the Giants defensively in Week 1, but that was with the less mistake-prone Eli Manning under center. Daniel Jones has shown promise, but he’s also been inconsistent. In addition, there’s a good chance that Sterling Shepard may be forced to miss a fourth consecutive game. The Cowboys are an outstanding option this week.
Patrick Mahomes will more than likely miss another game, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings are a great play this week. Matt Moore played well against Green Bay last week and should be capable of another solid performance in this one. Arrowhead is a difficult place to play and while the Vikings feature an imposing run defense, they’ve struggled against the pass at times. They’re not a “bad” option, but they’re not exactly safe either.
Steelers (Vs. Colts)
Pittsburgh features one of Fantasy’s top-scoring defenses. However, in games against New England, Seattle, and San Francisco, the Steelers have allowed 85 points. They’ve beat up on lesser teams like Miami, Cincinnati, and the Chargers. Pittsburgh’s 10 interceptions are tied for second-most and their 24 sacks are tied for sixth-most. However, the Colts don’t allow many sacks and they don’t turn the ball over much. Pittsburgh is a borderline option, at best this week.
Chargers (Vs. Packers)
The Chargers haven’t been the defensive force that many predicted them to be. They’ve been decent, however, ranking in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories, They’ve shown an ability to play well against struggling offenses such as Miami, Denver, and Chicago. However, an assuredly non-struggling offense comes to town in Week 9. The Green Bay Packers are flying high and Aaron Rogers, their Hall of Fame Quarterback, has been on fire . Over his last five games, Rogers has passed for 1,677 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. Aaron Jones meanwhile, has been just as hot. The Chargers are an incredibly risky play, at best this week. I’d stay far, far away.