Welcome to the Week 9 Fantasy Football Playbook!
This will be your game-by-game guide to the week's slate of NFL games, featuring score projections, over/unders, win probabilities and, of course, easily digestible fantasy advice for season-long and DFS leagues. This guide should help you with all sorts of decision-making, including sit/start decisions, last-minute waiver adds and lineup choices.
The advice is centered on 12-team PPR leagues with relatively standard scoring and lineup settings (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex, 1 K, 1 D/ST), although I'll often mention "shallow" or "deep" leagues for borderline starters. The charts show all players who have been projected for at least 6.0 fantasy points this week, as well as all D/STs. "Matchup" is automatically determined using a proprietary metric that factors in raw and volume-adjusted fantasy points allowed to each position by the opposing defense this season.
(Editor's note: Projections and rankings will align almost perfectly, but sometimes when a projection is close, a player might be ranked slightly higher or lower due to other factors, including upside or risk. This column is subject to possible updates during the weekend, though at the very minimum, rankings will get updated on the site and projections will always be updated inside the game leading up to kickoff.)
After a low-volume, slow start to his fantasy season, Joe Burrow has reeled off three straight top-10 fantasy weeks and is a starting option this week against the Browns' shaky pass defense. Baker Mayfield has produced just one weekly finish better than 16th and can't be trusted as a starter despite Mike White slicing up this defense in Week 8.
With Chubb back last week, D'Ernest Johnson racked up four carries and three targets on 18 snaps (Chubb had 16 carries and one target on 32 snaps). Johnson is a flex option in deeper leagues.
Tee Higgins leads the Bengals in targets during his six active weeks and, although he has yet to post a top-20 fantasy week, he has finished exactly 25th both of the past two weeks. He is certainly a fine WR2/3. Tyler Boyd is coming off his best showing of the season with Higgins also in the lineup, posting a 5-69-1 receiving line and completing a 46-yard pass. He's been all over the map this season, but the big-game potential keeps him in the WR3 discussion.
Jarvis Landry saw a season-high 10 targets last week and is likely in for an increased role with Odell Beckham Jr. out of the picture. Landry handled a massive 27% target share (7.9 per game) and was WR23 in fantasy points during the nine weeks last season in which he played and Beckham didn't. Consider him a WR2. Donovan Peoples-Jones is the likely replacement for Beckham and an intriguing second-half breakout sleeper.
C.J. Uzomah has a pair of 2-TD games, but has been held below 40 yards with a total of just one touchdown in his other five games. He and Austin Hooper (a season-high six targets last week) are TE2 options.
Over/Under: 50.9 (2nd highest in Week 9)
Win Prob: Bengals 75% (6th highest)
Dak Prescott was sidelined last week but is expected back against Denver. Prescott has delivered five 20-plus point efforts in his six games this season and remains in the QB1 picture, even in a tough matchup. Teddy Bridgewater was a real dud in a great matchup last week and has yet to post any top-10 fantasy outings this season. He remains a low-ceiling QB2.
Melvin Gordon III scored a pair of touchdowns last week, but he and Javonte Williams both had 13 opportunities (carries plus targets) in the game and continue to work in a committee. Williams has outscored Gordon in three of the past five weeks, however, which gives him the slightest of edges in the ranks.
Courtland Sutton also struggled last week, but he still leads the NFL in air yards (987) and remains Bridgewater's top perimeter target. He's a fringe WR2. Jerry Jeudy returned to action last week and was targeted on four of his 36 snaps in what was a low-volume day for the Denver passing attack. Jeudy is on the WR3 radar. If Michael Gallup is activated this week, he'll be a risky flex play in his first game back.
Noah Fant (COVID-19) is questionable this week. He's been boom/bust this season but is a TE1 play if active. If he's out, Albert Okwuegbunam has racked up 13 targets in five games as the No. 2 tight end this season and would become a viable streaming option. Week 8 marked Dalton Schultz's first stinker (two catches, 11 yards) since Week 2, but he was targeted six times and remains a fine TE1.
Over/Under: 48.6 (6th highest)
Win Prob: Cowboys 85% (2nd highest)
Lineup locks: Mike Gesicki
Since returning from injury in Week 6, Tua Tagovailoa has been the fifth-highest-scoring fantasy quarterback. The efficiency hasn't been great, but the volume (126 passing attempts) certainly has been. He also has added 61 yards and a score with his legs. Tagovailoa is a fringe QB1 against Houston's porous pass defense. Tyrod Taylor returns from injury this week and is a deep-league streaming option against a struggling Miami defense that has allowed the fourth-most QB fantasy points.
Myles Gaskin has averaged 18.0 opportunities over his past two games and is a solid RB2 play this week against a Houston defense allowing a league-high 5.2 YPC to backs. Salvon Ahmed is an underrated insurance back but doesn't have a top-35 fantasy week this season. He belongs on benches. Even after trading away Mark Ingram II, Houston stuck with a four-man backfield committee, with Rex Burkhead (28 snaps), Scottie Phillips (15), David Johnson (11) and Phillip Lindsay (7) all involved. None belongs in lineups.
Houston has been good against the slot, and Jaylen Waddle has been very boom/bust (three top-20 fantasy weeks, but also four finishes of 60th or worse). Still, the rookie's 21% target share keeps him in the WR2 discussion.
Over/Under: 45.4 (10th highest)
Win Prob: Dolphins 54% (14th highest)
Matt Ryan has only one top-10 fantasy week (and just two finishes better than 15th) to his name this season and will have his hands full against a Saints defense allowing the fifth-fewest QB fantasy points. He's not a recommended streaming option. Jameis Winston is out for the season. Taysom Hill is the likely starter moving forward, but he's still recovering from a concussion, so Trevor Siemian is currently the projected Week 9 starter. Siemian's career struggles and a lack of rushing contributions suggest he shouldn't be close to lineups. If Hill does start, he'd be a fringe QB1 after sitting seventh at the position in fantasy points in his four 2020 starts.
Mike Davis bounced back and out-snapped Cordarrelle Patterson 32-30 last week, but although he has reached double-digit fantasy points in all but one game, he has yet to post a weekly finish better than 18th. He should be viewed as a flex. Patterson has posted six consecutive top-20 fantasy finishes and makes for a strong RB2 option. Mark Ingram racked up six carries and a pair of targets in his Saints debut, which won't be enough for flex consideration, although his role could increase.
Marquez Callaway has posted just one weekly fantasy finish better than 26th and has finished 48th (or worse) in five of his seven outings this season. Even with Michael Thomas out for the season (and especially with Winston also now out), Callaway is nothing more than a fringe flex play. No other Saints' pass-catchers belong close to lineups right now.
Calvin Ridley (personal) is out indefinitely, but Atlanta's other wide receivers are tough to trust in lineups. Russell Gage seemed to be the next man up, but he went without a single target in Week 8. Tajae Sharpe was targeted a total of 11 times in the two games missed by Ridley earlier this season, but he has yet to clear 58 yards in any game or score a touchdown. Neither is an ideal flex play.
Over/Under: 44 (11th highest)
Win Prob: Saints 73% (7th highest)
Daniel Jones' season got off to a good start, but last week's dud in a great matchup at Kansas City marks his fourth consecutive fantasy outing outside the top 12. He's not an ideal streamer, although his rushing ability keeps him in the discussion. Derek Carr continues to lack a high ceiling (his best weekly finish is seventh), but he has produced 19-plus points in five of his seven games. He's a high-floor QB2.
Saquon Barkley appears likely to miss another game. Devontae Booker has posted fantasy finishes of 15th, 24th, 17th and 14th in his place. He figures to once again be in the vicinity of his 14.3-carry, 4.0-target average over this stretch -- and that's enough for RB2 production.
The Raiders' release of Henry Ruggs III helps solidify Hunter Renfrow (10-plus fantasy points in six of his seven games) as a solid WR3. It also raises the projected volume for Bryan Edwards, who now finds himself in the flex discussion. The Giants' WR situation remains in flux. Kenny Golladay could return this week and, if so, would join Kadarius Toney (five targets in a limited role in his return last week) as a WR3/flex play. Sterling Shepard went down again and is week-to-week, which helps Darius Slayton's cause as a deep-league flex.
Evan Engram has posted a trio of top-15 fantasy outings over the past four weeks and is a fringe TE starter in deep leagues.
DFS Alert: Injuries have been an issue, but Jacobs ($6,200) is a value as the 12th-highest-priced running back on DraftKings this week. Jacobs has produced 15-plus fantasy points in four of his five games -- and that includes his injury-shortened outings in Weeks 1 and 7. He has scored five touchdowns in as many games and is averaging a career-high 3.2 targets per contest. The Giants defense has allowed the fifth-most RB fantasy points over expected and the fifth-most RB rushing yards. New York ranks among the eight worst defenses in YPC and YPT allowed to the position. An opposing back has reached 16 fantasy points in six of the Giants' eight games.
Over/Under: 46.9 (8th highest)
Win Prob: Raiders 63% (9th highest)
Remember Sam Darnold's strong start to the season? Me neither. Darnold's last top-15 fantasy outing was in Week 4, and he has since been held below 12.0 fantasy points in three of four outings. Mac Jones posted his first top-10 fantasy outing in Week 7, but that's his lone top-15 result this season. Neither belongs in lineups.
McCaffrey could return this week, but if he remains out, Chuba Hubbard will slide right back into the RB2 mix. The rookie sits third in the NFL with 76 carries and has 16 targets to his name over the past four weeks. Damien Harris has produced 14-plus fantasy points in three straight games and is a viable RB2 play despite a lack of passing-game involvement (only 12 targets over eight games).
The "Jakobi Meyers Counter" is now up to 130 career receptions without a touchdown, but New England's slot man sits eighth among wide receivers in receptions, which keeps him in the WR3 mix. Robby Anderson does not have a weekly fantasy finish better than 40th this season despite ranking sixth in routes and 35th in targets among wide receivers. Anderson belongs on benches or waivers.
Hunter Henry has accrued a total of nine targets over the past three weeks. He has scored one touchdown in four of his past five games, however, and remains a TD-dependent TE2. Jonnu Smith hasn't cleared 10.2 fantasy points in any game this season.
Over/Under: 39.7 (13th highest)
Win Prob: Patriots 62% (10th highest)
Trevor Lawrence has thrown nearly as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns (10) and has but one weekly fantasy finish better than 15th to his name. He's nowhere close to being a fantasy starter, especially against Buffalo's elite defense.
James Robinson is questionable for this game after suffering a heel injury in Week 8. Before the injury, he had rattled off four straight top-12 fantasy weeks. If Robinson plays, he's a fine RB2, but if he's out, Carlos Hyde becomes a viable flex (although keep in mind the tough matchup). Zack Moss is the lead back in Buffalo, and that has allowed him 11.8-plus fantasy points in five of his six games. His usage is enough for back-end RB2 production. Devin Singletary hasn't had any top-30 fantasy showings since Week 2 and is not a recommended flex.
Cole Beasley has posted back-to-back top-12 fantasy weeks, and Emmanuel Sanders had posted four straight top-35 outings before last week's catchless dud. Both see enough volume in a high-scoring offense to warrant WR3 consideration. Beasley is questionable, so if he's ruled out, Gabriel Davis leaps into the flex discussion.
Buffalo's defense will make it hard to trust any Jacksonville pass-catchers this week, but Marvin Jones Jr. remains the top play. He has four top-36 fantasy showings this season, but also three finishes outside the top 50 during his past four games. Laviska Shenault Jr. doesn't have a weekly finish better than 20th this season and seems to be losing ground to Jamal Agnew, who has produced three consecutive finishes of 37th or better.
Dan Arnold set career-high marks in targets (11) and receptions (8) last week, and the volume alone launches him into the TE1 discussion. Tommy Sweeney played on 80% of the snaps in relief of the injured Dawson Knox last week but was limited to four targets. Sweeney will need a touchdown to pay off a spot start in deeper leagues.
DFS Alert: Allen ($8,200) is the top-priced quarterback on DraftKings this week, but his recent play suggests he's well worth the cost. Allen has been the overall QB1 three times this season and has been top-five in four of the past five weeks. He has produced 20 touchdowns over seven games and ranks third among passers in rushing yards. The Jaguars have allowed the seventh-most QB fantasy points, as well as the second-highest completion rate and yards per completion. Jacksonville has surrendered at least 19 QB fantasy points in six of its seven games.
Over/Under: 42.7 (12th highest)
Win Prob: Bills 94% (Highest)
Kirk Cousins has been all over the map this season, posting a trio of top-six fantasy outings but also three finishes of 19th or worse. He can nevertheless be a streaming option this week with four quarterbacks on a bye.
After missing Baltimore's last game due to injury, Latavius Murray is not expected back this week. Even if he were to return, his upside remains severely capped by the presence of Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell and Ty'Son Williams. That trio of reserves would split duties if Murray is out and, although none is a recommended start, Freeman would be the preferred choice for your flex spot.
Marquise Brown has delivered five top-20 fantasy outings in seven games, although it's possible his targets will drop slightly as Rashod Bateman's role expands. Sammy Watkins might still be sidelined or limited, however, so Brown remains a quality WR2. Bateman would be the preferred play over Watkins (if he's back), but we're still awaiting his first top-30 fantasy outing, so he's not an ideal flex.
Tyler Conklin has put up double-digit fantasy points in consecutive games and is on the TE1 radar.
DFS Alert: Conklin ($3,000) is too cheap to ignore at DraftKings this week. Priced 19th for the slate, he'll cost you less than the likes of Hooper and Sweeney. Conklin has registered six-plus targets and 10-plus fantasy points in three of his past five games. He's averaging 5.1 targets per game and sits 10th among tight ends in total catches, despite Minnesota already having sat out for its bye week. The Ravens have allowed the most fantasy points, targets, receiving yards and touchdowns to tight ends.
Over/Under: 48.7 (5th highest)
Win Prob: Ravens 54% (13th highest)
Justin Herbert is a tough read right now, as he's been a top-two fantasy quarterback twice this season but also has finished no higher than 18th four times (including both of his past two games). He's fifth in the league in passing attempts despite serving his bye, however, so the combination of his heavy volume and his high ceiling keeps him in the QB1 mix.
The Eagles turned to Boston Scott as their lead back with Miles Sanders on IR. Scott racked up 12 carries and one target on 27 snaps. Jordan Howard ran the ball 12 times on his 15 snaps. Kenneth Gainwell racked up 13 carries on 20 snaps, but most of that was in garbage time and he wasn't targeted. Perhaps Gainwell's role will rise if the underdog Eagles are trailing this week, but he has fallen into shaky flex territory. Scott is the top play here and is on the RB2 radar. Howard likely needs a touchdown to pay off flex value as he's a nonfactor as a receiver.
Both of these defenses have been terrific against wide receivers, as laid out in this week's Shadow Report. Mike Williams is coming off back-to-back duds, but his upside (four top-15 fantasy weeks) makes him too good to bench. Keenan Allen had a solid showing in Week 8, although he still has yet to produce a top-12 fantasy outing this season. He's a solid WR2. DeVonta Smith hasn't produced any top-25 fantasy weeks since Week 4, but he's averaging a decent 6.8 targets per game. He's on the flex radar.
Dallas Goedert has delivered a pair of top-eight fantasy weeks since Zach Ertz was traded and belongs in lineups. The same goes for Jared Cook, who might be lacking in the yardage department but is averaging 5.3 targets per game and has a pair of touchdowns over his past four games.
Over/Under: 48.1 (7th highest)
Win Prob: Chargers 55% (12th highest)
Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and is out this week. That means Jordan Love will make his first NFL start. The 2020 first-round pick has attempted only seven passes in his career, so expectations obviously need to be held in check, even against the Chiefs' struggling defense. Consider Love only in superflex leagues.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is eligible to return from IR this week and would be on the RB2/flex radar if activated. If not, Darrel Williams (13 carries and six targets on 50 snaps last week), Derrick Gore (11 carries and zero targets on 15 snaps) and Jerick McKinnon (zero carries and one target on 12 snaps) will handle backfield duties. Williams would be the only viable starter. AJ Dillon has one weekly finish better than 30th to his name (19th in Week 5) and isn't a recommended flex, especially with Rodgers out.
Mecole Hardman has produced only one weekly finish better than 34th (19th in Week 5) and should be in the flex spot only in deep leagues. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling could both be back this week, but neither should be trusted in your lineup with Rodgers out.
Over/Under: 50.6 (3rd highest)
Win Prob: Chiefs 58% (11th highest)
Lineup locks: Deebo Samuel
Kyler Murray is questionable this week with an ankle injury. His fantasy production had already dipped a bit, as he has managed only one weekly finish better than ninth during his past six outings. Still, if Murray is active, he'll be a solid QB1 play. Jimmy Garoppolo was the No. 2 scoring fantasy quarterback in Week 8, but that marks his first top-12 finish (and second top-20 outing) of the season. He remains in jeopardy of being benched with Trey Lance looming and has a tough matchup against an Arizona defense that has allowed just one weekly QB finish better than 15th this season.
Chase Edmonds has hit double-digit fantasy points in all but two games this season and is still on the RB2 radar despite a very tough matchup against a 49ers defense that has allowed the fewest RB fantasy points over expected. James Conner has scored eight touchdowns this season, but his five-carry, zero-target showing in Week 8 obviously makes him risky, especially in this tough matchup. Elijah Mitchell has had 18 carries, one touchdown, zero targets and a top-12 fantasy outing in back-to-back weeks. The lack of receiving limits his upside, but the rushing work keeps him in the RB2 mix.
An in-game injury limited DeAndre Hopkins to a mere two targets on 13 snaps last week, but he had already been handling only 6.4 per game, which is his lowest total since his rookie season. He's a WR2. As noted weekly, Arizona's secondary wide receivers are too volatile to feel great starting, but Christian Kirk is the recommended flex over A.J. Green and Rondale Moore. Of course, if Green (COVID-19) is out, both Kirk and Moore will be better starting options. Brandon Aiyuk saw a season-high seven targets last week, but he can't be trusted for your flex slot just yet.
George Kittle is eligible to return from IR this week and would slide right back into the TE1 mix if activated. Zach Ertz has a pair of top-15 fantasy weeks in his two games with Arizona and makes for a fringe fantasy starter.
Over/Under: 49.4 (4th highest)
Win Prob: Cardinals 76% (4th highest)
Ryan Tannehill has reeled off back-to-back top-12 fantasy outings, but it's yet to be seen whether this Titans offense will miss a beat or three with Derrick Henry sidelined. Tannehill is best viewed as a QB2 against a good Rams defense.
With Henry out, Jeremy McNichols and Adrian Peterson appear to be the headliners for touches. Peterson was just signed and might not play a ton in his Tennessee debut this week, but upward of 15 carries and a few targets per game is possible. McNichols had already been plenty involved in the passing game with a healthy Henry and is the recommended flex this week. Dontrell Hilliard and D'Onta Foreman could also factor into this backfield.
Robert Woods has produced three top-20 fantasy outings in his past four games and is suddenly WR18 for the season. He's a back-end WR2 this week. Tennessee will need more out of Julio Jones moving forward, and he'll be on the WR3/flex radar if he's back in the lineup. Van Jefferson's role as the Rams' No. 3 WR is more secure after the release of DeSean Jackson. Jefferson's 13 targets and 191 air yards over the past two weeks helps secure him as a flex.
Tyler Higbee has posted three top-12 fantasy outings this season and continues to hang around on the TE1 radar thanks to the Rams' high-scoring offense.
Over/Under: 53.8 (Highest)
Win Prob: Rams 75% (5th highest)
Ben Roethlisberger still does not have any top-15 fantasy outings this season and is well off the fantasy radar. Justin Fields exploded for 25.3 fantasy points last week after entering the game with 44.6 points for his career. Perhaps he's on his way to fantasy relevance (and the 10-103-1 rushing line in Week 8 helps his cause), but we can't trust him just yet -- especially not against a good Pittsburgh defense.
Khalil Herbert has carried the ball 18-plus times in four straight games but has found the end zone just once. He has only 44 yards on 10 targets and sits 18th in fantasy points at the RB position during this span. That's why Herbert should be viewed as a back-end RB2 against the Steelers' strong run defense. David Montgomery could be activated from IR and play this week, but even if active, he's expected to be limited and would be a risky start -- especially since this game is Monday night.
Chase Claypool put up 61 yards on six touches last week, and, although we've yet to see a full-on breakout, the talented sophomore remains in the WR3 mix. Darnell Mooney is the Bears' No. 1 wide receiver by basically every measurement, but he's still only 43rd in WR fantasy points with just two weekly finishes better than 30th. Allen Robinson II sits 60th without a single top-35 week. Neither is a reliable fantasy start, but Mooney is the better flex.
Pat Freiermuth's breakout is seemingly underway, as he has now turned seven targets in back-to-back outings into two top-10 fantasy weeks. He's closing in on the TE1 radar. Cole Kmet's 16% target share is enticing, but he has yet to clear 50 yards in any of his 25 career games and has just two touchdowns during the span (none in 2021). Kmet is a back-end TE2.
Over/Under: 36.3 (14th highest)
Win Prob: Steelers 68% (8th highest)
Lineup locks: Jonathan Taylor
Carson Wentz has put up 17-plus fantasy points in seven of his eight games but doesn't have a weekly finish better than ninth. A lack of yardage is the culprit, as he has 48 total rushing yards over his past five games and has been under 235 passing yards in four of those five contests. He's a high-floor, low-ceiling QB2. Mike White is a feel-good story after lighting up the Bengals last week, but we can't trust him as a starter just yet, especially considering he's a nonfactor with his legs and has as many interceptions as touchdowns (4) this season.
Michael Carter was Week 8's top-scoring fantasy running back and has now handled nine-plus carries in six straight games, with 23 targets over his past two outings. He has a tough matchup this week as the Colts have allowed only three RB touchdowns and the third-fewest RB fantasy points this season. Still, his recent play and heavy volume keep the rookie in the RB2 mix. Nyheim Hines has been under 7.0 fantasy points in five straight games and belongs on benches.
Michael Pittman Jr. has produced 20-plus fantasy points on four occasions this season and is coming off a career-high 15 targets and 10 catches in Week 8. The Jets' pass defense has cooled against tougher competition in the past few weeks, so we don't need to be overly concerned despite the "poor" matchup designation. Zach Pascal hasn't scored a top-30 fantasy week since Week 1, but he's on the deep-league flex radar with T.Y. Hilton out.
Corey Davis is doubtful to play this week, which opens up more work for Jamison Crowder and Elijah Moore in what is a good matchup against a Colts defense that has allowed the second-most WR fantasy points over expected (plus a league-high 13 scores). Crowder has seen six-plus targets in all four games this season and is on the WR3 radar. Moore, a rookie, has zero top-25 fantasy outings this season, but he was targeted six times with Davis out last week and belongs on the flex radar.
Mo Alie-Cox didn't catch a pass last week, but he matched his season high with five targets after having averaged 12.0 fantasy points over the previous four games. He's a TD-dependent TE2.
Over/Under: 46.6 (9th highest)
Win Prob: Colts 80% (3rd highest)