Week 9 fantasy football waiver-wire targets

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Making it through the Week 8 bye-week apocalypse feels like in a video game where you beat up on a boss and think you've won, only to have that bad guy emerge once again with full health and a new set of weaponry. That's because Week 9 once again delivers six teams taking the week off, but among those are offenses loaded with fantasy stars like the Patriots, Steelers, Chargers and Vikings. Managing the holes in lineups will be a challenge this week, but hopefully this column can help. I once again try to highlight some plug-and-play pickups, as well as a few stash-worthy adds. If these players are unavailable in your league, be sure to read the Deep Dive and Streaming articles written by Matt Harmon and Matt Franciscovich when they come out on Monday. Both will be linked at the top of this piece sometime Monday afternoon.

BYE WEEKS: Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers

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1

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens


Alex Collins appeared in this space before, but despite looking like the better runner every time he touched the ball, he couldn't usurp Javorius Allen in touches or playing time. That changed on Thursday night against the Dolphins as Collins delivered a phenomenal performance (20 touches, 143 yards) in which he beat out Allen in playing time (31 plays to 30) as well. Allen fumbled at the goal line, too, which could lead to a further increase in playing time for Collins. With favorable matchups on the horizon (at Packers, Texans, Lions) Collins could be a huge factor in the fantasy playoff push. I'd be aggressive with waiver priority and FAAB spend on Collins as we're running out of time to make the most of those assets anyway. (Percent owned: 5.5, FAAB suggestion: 40-50 percent)

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2

Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos


Jamaal Charles has yet to play in Week 8 as of this article's publication, but there's a drumbeat building in Denver for the veteran to get more touches and it might come to fruition against his former team, the Chiefs. Plugged-in beat reporter Mike Klis suggests Charles could see an increased workload returning to the house he built over the last several years. Charles hasn't seen more than 10 touches in a game yet, but he'll be worth a speculative add regardless of if he gets REVENGE against the Chiefs on Monday night. The Broncos run game is struggling and they could start looking for answers within their own backfield. (Percent owned: 18.3, FAAB suggestion: 10-15 percent)

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3

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts


The Colts stayed surprisingly close to the Bengals all game, which limited the Marlon Mack garbage time production many were hoping for. However, the rookie did receive 10-plus opportunities (targets/carries) for the third time in four weeks, and found the end zone for the second time in that span as well. What's more noteworthy, is that for the second week in a row he saw the field more than Gore, this time edging the veteran by a whopping one play (36 to 35). Mack's explosiveness makes him a flex-worthy option, and if his playing time and workload continue to increase he could become even more valuable in fantasy. (Percent owned: 9.2, FAAB suggestion: 10-15)

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4

Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants


Orleans Darkwa, a hot add a few weeks ago, was dropped in countless leagues after disappointing (12 touches, 48 yards) right before the Giants' bye. Well, he comes out of the bye still the leader of this backfield and right into a cushy matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have been improving on defense with Aaron Donald rounding into form, but on the year they're allowing the sixth-most rushing yards per game, and they've given up nine total touchdowns to the position. With Darkwa leading the way in playing time the last two weeks (48 percent) and the first-choice for early-down and goal-line carries, he could be in a position for a decent bounce back game. (Percent owned: 19.1, FAAB suggestion: 15-20 percent)

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5

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants


Sterling Shepard nearly returned for the Giants in Week 7 before their bye, but had retweaked his ankle and was sat precautionarily. His return will be a welcome one, as the Giants wide receivers have combined for a mere SEVEN catches for 67 yards over the last two weeks. For those with a short memory, those are the weeks since the team lost Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris to season-ending injuries, and Shepard to a multi-week injury. Shepard will step back in this week against a vulnerable Rams secondary and likely see double-digit targets. Do what you can to add him this week as he should be a volume hog the rest of the way. (Percent owned: 28.1, FAAB suggestion: 20-25)

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6

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons


After posting a six-catch, 74-yard, one-touchdown line against the Jets on Sunday, Mohamed Sanu has now seen six-plus targets in all five of his healthy games this year. That's a semi-usable floor, especially in a season where plenty of big-name wide receivers are catching passes from subpar backups ( Larry Fitzgerald, Jordy Nelson, etc.). Sanu had a tough matchup this week on the road against the Panthers, but with six teams on byes, beggars can't be choosers. (Percent owned: 17.9, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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7

Robby Anderson, WR, Jets


Rather quietly, Robby Anderson came into Week 8 leading the Jets in targets (46) and receiving yards (331), and he built on both against the Falcons. Anderson caught all six of his targets for 104 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and now has 59-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. The Jets face a Bills defense showing some cracks of late this Thursday. The Bills have allowed three consecutive 300-yard passers, and if Josh McCown looks to make it four he'll need to target his talented young wideout. Anderson is a decent plug-and-play option this week with rest-of-season upside as well. (Percent owned: 2.3, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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8

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers


I was originally leaving JuJu Smith-Schuster for Matt Harmon's "Deep Dive" article, but the rookie wideout's ownership percentage had climbed too high, so I'm retroactively adding him to my waiver-wire list. With Martavis Bryant inactive, Smith-Schuster shined for the Steelers against the Lions, catching seven of his 10 targets for 193 yards and a touchdown. He became the first non-Antonio Brown/ Le'Veon Bell Steelers player to receive double-digit targets this year, but it's worth noting he needed Bryant to be inactive for that to happen. I'm not sold on the rook as a weekly start the rest of the way, as if/when Bryant returns volume could be tough to come by. On the season Brown and Bell account for 51.3 percent of the team targets. Still, after a breakout performance like this Smith-Schuster must be added. It could be the start of big things to come. (Percent owned: 13.1, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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9

Corey Davis, WR, Titans


Corey Davis has been sidelined since Week 2 with a hamstring injury, but after the team's bye he could be nearing a return. Odds are Davis' owner became fed up in your league and cast him into the waiver pool, and if that's the case I'd scoop him up. In Davis' one healthy game (his first in the NFL, by the way) he saw 24 percent of the team targets, catching six of 10 for 69 yards. The Titans passing attack has struggled without Davis, and his return could be the missing spark. I'm not sure I'd start him right away until we see his practice reports, but I'm trying to add him where I can. (Percent owned: 60.7, FAAB suggestion: 10-15 percent)

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10

Vernon Davis, TE, Redskins


Sadly, we've reached the second act of " Jordan Reed will miss some time with an injury" for the 2017 season. Reed suffered what appeared to be a pretty significant hamstring pull against the Cowboys and did not return to the game. It's unclear exactly how much time Reed will miss, but him being even less than 100 percent makes Vernon Davis a fantastic target this week. Heading into this rain-soaked game, Davis had 58-plus yards in four straight games, with 16 of his 18 targets on the season coming in that stretch. The Seahawks can be vulnerable to the tight end position, and are a bit more susceptible to the pass than in years past. They're coming off a game where they let rookie sensation Deshaun Watson throw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns against them. (Percent owned: 2.1, FAAB suggestion: 10-15 percent)

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11

Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams


While the NFL finds new and often frustrating ways to surprise us each weekend, one thing we do know is you start tight ends against the Giants in fantasy. The Rams have been deploying a bit of a committee at the position, but Tyler Higbee is the leader in playing time (75 percent) and targets (27), making him the preferred streaming option in this matchup. Week 8 was the first week this season where the Giants didn't allow a touchdown to a tight end ... because they were on their bye. (Percent owned: 0.1, FAAB suggestion: 0-5 percent)

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12

Jared Goff, QB, Rams


With six teams once again on byes, the streaming options are a bit thin. Jared Goff has been up-and-down as a fantasy quarterback, but this could be a prime spot for him to heat back up. The Giants were a defense we feared coming into the season, but after eight weeks that notion has flown out the window. Three of the last four quarterbacks to face Big Blue have gone for 250-plus yards and three touchdowns. Goff and Sean McVay will come into this game with added preparation (the same goes for the Giants), but in this instance I'll side with the offense that has been a dynamic, multi-faceted unit thus far. Goff has some favorable matchups on the horizon as well ( Texans, Saints, at Cardinals) so if he performs against the Giants he may just be worth holding on to. (Percent owned: 14.0, FAAB suggestion: 0-5 percent)

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13

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings


The Vikings are heading into their bye and Teddy Bridgewater may still be a couple weeks from returning, but there are reports he could be under center as soon as Week 10, so I felt the need to mention him here. Those playing in very deep or two-QB leagues could look to stash Bridgewater through the bye, while others should merely circle his name as one to watch for the coming weeks. Case Keenum has filled in admirably as the Vikings backup and has led the team to 4-2 record through his six major appearances. Still, this Vikings team could be making a push into the postseason and may want to turn the reins of the offense back over to the promising young passer they thought was going to lead them to the promised land just over a year ago. (Percent owned: 0.9, FAAB suggestion: 0-5 percent)

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "Like" his page on Facebook for more NFL and fantasy analysis.

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