It's not going to be pretty. You should know that up front. Six teams are on a bye, and not just any teams. Teams that are chock full to the brim with fantasy starters, like Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and, uh, Tennessee. Sammy Watkins and the Bills' defense take a breather this week, as well, which all adds up to a serious talent shortage.
It's weeks like this that make fantasy football more like chess than checkers. It's not just about who you are playing this week, it's entirely about roster construction and risk assessment. Whom to drop this week to pick up a spot starter in light of what your team will look like next week, when six more fantasy-friendly teams have their bye: Indy, New England, San Diego, Washington, Houston and, uh, Minnesota.
This is look-in-the-mirror time. Are you well on your way to making the playoffs, or are you more week-to-week? Be honest with yourself, because the real answer to that question will guide you through your waiver decisions this week and affect how your team will be built for the future.
If you feel pretty good about making the playoffs, maybe you take it on the chin this week (or next) while setting yourself up for a playoff run. Maybe you offer some guys who have good matchups this week in exchange for bye week and/or banged up players. Calvin Johnson anyone? The next two weeks are panic mode for a lot of owners: smart owners don't panic, they take advantage.
On the other hand, if you are sitting at 3-5, 4-4 or even 5-3 but with a bunch of bad byes coming up and a lot of stiff competition on the schedule, you're in survive-and-advance mode. Be smart, of course, but realize that a team that is built for the playoffs does you no good if you don't make the playoffs. Josh Gordon may be a luxury you can't afford right now.
The positive for this week is that many of the bottom-feeder quarterbacks that are available in most leagues have pretty good matchups. So for you owners of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan that are pondering your options, you can probably live with Eli Manning against a Vontae Davis-less Colts defense, or Alex Smith at home against the Jets. In deeper leagues, you could do worse than Brian Hoyer against Tampa Bay or his opponent, Mike Glennon, facing the Browns.
Running back is ugly every week and this week is no exception, as Charles Sims, who hasn't even played a down this year, gets ranked (I don't think Doug Martin plays) and practice-squad rescue Jonas Gray is firmly in flex territory.
I have to tell you that, of all the positions, wide receiver is all over the place. This is the position that is probably hit hardest by the byes, and there are a ton of matchups that inspire no confidence whatsoever. The wide receiver ranks will change the most between now and Sunday as we gather more intel and see the practice reports. So check back often as this list will be updated often throughout the week. Always make sure to check the time stamp at the top to know how recent it is. And finally, be sure to tune in this Sunday to "Fantasy Football Now" at 11 a.m. ET. This week only, we are on ESPNEWS at 11 a.m. ET (and for most of the show) due to the marathon airing on ESPN2, and as always you can see us on the WatchESPN app. Good luck in Week 9!
Last update: Friday, 6:10 p.m. ET