Week 9 starts: Davante Adams or Michael Thomas?


Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 9 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.

Who should I start at QB: Russell Wilson or Derek Carr?

Were Russell Wilson fully healthy, this question wouldn't need any analysis. However, Wilson is extremely banged up heading into a home matchup with the Bills and not only a questionable start but a questionable player to even have on a fantasy roster. Wilson has thrown just five touchdown passes on the year, and three of them came in Week 4 ... which is also the last time he threw a touchdown pass. In fact, Wilson has scored a touchdown in just three of seven games this year, with zero coming on the ground. Speaking of his ground game, once a tremendous asset that pushed his fantasy ceiling into the stratosphere, Wilson's injuries are currently preventing him from adding points with his legs. From 2012-2015, Wilson ran for fewer than 10 yards in just six games. In 2016 alone he's failed to hit double-digit rushing yards four times. All of this makes Wilson a dicey fantasy start, especially against a Buffalo pass rush that is currently tied for the league-lead with 26 sacks. Again, a healthy, mobile Wilson would be a fine play. But Wilson in his current state carries a ton of risk.

While fully healthy, Derek Carr is walking into a nightmare of a matchup with the vaunted Broncos defense. Starting Carr has been a bit like riding a roller coaster in 2016. The highs have been tremendous (four 21-plus point outings, one 35-plus point week), while the lows have been week-ruiners (three weeks with 12.4 or fewer fantasy points). Denver's defense ranks second in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, and to date Carr has found most of his success against teams outside the top 20 in DVOA, averaging 23.75 fantasy points per game against the Saints (29th), Falcons (26th), Titans (22nd) and Buccaneers (20th). Carr does pilot an offense loaded with talent, though, as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are the league's most productive wide-receiving duo in 2016. Denver's secondary has the personnel to lock this group down, as they did last year when Crabtree and Cooper combined for 120 yards and no touchdowns in two games against Denver. Both appear to be playing at a higher level (as is Carr) than what they put on tape in 2015, though, so they could look to rewrite that script on Sunday..

Verdict: Even though Carr is facing a dreadful matchup, Wilson's injuries and recent lack of fantasy scoring combine to make him a sit this week. The Oakland offense is a different animal in 2016 compared to 2015 and has as good of a chance as any team to actually score some points on this defense.

Who should I start at RB: Tim Hightower or Charcandrick West?

The Saints backfield turned on its head last week, catching fantasy owners completely off guard. When Mark Ingram lost his second fumble in as many weeks (this one returned for a touchdown), the Saints pulled him in favor of the cagey old veteran Tim Hightower. Hightower, as you might remember, enjoyed a bit of a late-career revival last season with the Saints after being out of the league for three years. Last Sunday, however, Hightower was fed 26 carries in relief of Ingram, giving him three games with 20-plus carries in 12 appearances for the Saints (where he saw at least one offensive snap). Ingram has eight games with 20-plus carries in 69 career games for New Orleans. So what does this mean for fantasy? Well, head coach Sean Payton alluded that Hightower "earned" more work, but also said Ingram would still have a key role. That smells like a full-fledged committee, giving both Hightower and Ingram risky flex value. If either heats up, a dreaded "hot hand" approach could take hold here.

For most of the year, Charcandrick West had been an afterthought in the Kansas City backfield with Spencer Ware playing so well and Jamaal Charles slowly returning to action. Well, life comes at you fast. Charles is now on IR and Ware is still in the concussion protocol after missing practice on Wednesday, setting up West to be the featured back (or at least see a sizeable workload) in Week 9 when the Chiefs host the Jaguars. West isn't of comparable talent to Ware or Charles, but can produce when given a high volume of touches. As Mike Tagliere of Pro Football Focus notes, when West sees 18-plus touches in a game, he averages over 18 fantasy points per game. However, he's never amassed more than 64 total yards or scored a touchdown when he fails to hit that 18 touch threshold. If Ware misses this game, West will be a strong top-20 play among running backs. In the event that Ware does clear the concussion protocol and plays Sunday, West will fall back to risky flex status, as his history indicates he needs volume to produce.

Verdict: Assuming Ware misses this game, West is the runaway victor in this equation. He'll have higher upside seeing the lion's share of the touches in an offense that runs through its backs, where as Hightower and Ingram will be splitting carries for a team that still relies more heavily on the pass (though that could be changing). If Ware plays, I'd feel better about playing Hightower for the safer yardage floor than running the risk that Ware returns to his dominant role and completely ices out West.

Who should I start at WR: Davante Adams or Michael Thomas?

After spending 2015 as a fantasy punching bag, Davante Adams has lifted himself off the canvas and is looking like a weekly fantasy starter in 2016. Since the Packers' Week 4 bye, among wide receivers Adams ranks fourth in targets (41), tied for first in receptions (32), seventh in receiving yards (325), tied for second in touchdowns (three), and second in fantasy points (50.5). Among wide receivers with 25-plus targets in that span, Adams' 78 percent catch rate is second to only Ty Montgomery's 80 percent. This increased role for Adams comes partly as a result of the offensive shift since the bye to more quick passing, and also injuries. With Randall Cobb out last week and Jordy Nelson sliding into the slot on a season-high 63 percent of his snaps, Adams was the primary outside receiver for the Packers, garnering a team-high 14 targets (though four came while he was lined up in the backfield, to be fair). Still, Rodgers appears to trust Adams and the young receiver has been producing. With a matchup against the Colts leaky secondary on deck, Adams looks like a strong start again, though the return of Cobb and Montgomery to the lineup could siphon away some targets.

Since Week 4, Michael Thomas has rather quietly emerged as the top target in the Saints three-headed wide receiver attack. In that span, he leads the team in targets, receptions and yards (33-25-315), with two touchowns as well. He also leads the Saints pass-catchers in playing time over the last four games, too (78 percent of the snaps). This week Thomas travels to San Francisco to face a 49ers defense that has allowed a league-high 13 touchdown receptions to opposing wide receivers. Brandin Cooks doesn't perform as well outside of the Superdome, which could help Thomas find more success and see enough targets to produce in fantasy in Week 9.

Verdict: The Player Comparison Tool views this matchup as a close one, although it appears to have lost focus a bit as Adams is at home this week, not on the road. While the Saints should see favorable weather in Northern California, Drew Brees isn't quite his dominant self away from the Big Easy. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have a history of dominant performances at home, especially against lackluster stop units like the one Indianapolis will bring to town. For those reasons and Adams' run of recent success, he looks like the better start this week, but not by much.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar