Texans at Jaguars (at 9:30am ET in London)
Must Play: QB Deshaun Watson; WR DeAndre Hopkins; RB Leonard Fournette
High upside FLEX: WR Kenny Stills
Stream: QB Gardner Minshew; TE Darren Fells
Key Game Facts
-- Houston has allowed a top-15 fantasy finish to opposing QBs in 7-of-8 games
-- D.J. Chark is 7th in PPR points per game, 6th in yards per route run, and is tied for the league-lead in deep receptions (10) among wide receivers
When the Texans have the ball: With the fourth highest over/under of the week (47.0 total), this is yet another spot for Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins to hit their ceiling in what should be a high-scoring affair in London. Hopkins has smashed in two-straight games without Will Fuller, hitting the Colts for 9/106/1 when Fuller left early and he tallied 11/109 against the Raiders last week. Kenny Stills failed in his first game without Fuller, posting just 3/22 on 5 targets -- but I'm willing to go back to him as FLEX option with upside in this matchup. Stills didn't see many passing looks, but he ran a route on every single one of Deshaun Watson's dropbacks in Week 8. Fuller's absence forced Houston back to relying on 2-TE sets and Darren Fells was the biggest beneficiary. Fells set season-highs in routes (37) and snap rate (90 percent) last week and he is back on the desperation streaming radar against a Jags secondary that just coughed up 4/66/2 to Ryan Griffin. Carlos Hyde remains a game-script and touchdown dependent FLEX option. Hyde has seen 19 or more carries in four of the Texans 5 wins and just 10.7 attempts per game in their three losses.
When the Jaguars have the ball: Jacksonville's side is extremely straight-forward this week. Leonard Fournette has 21, 31, 26, 26, 31, and 26 touch counts over the last five weeks and is overdue for positive touchdown regression. Fournette has 17 carries inside of the 10-yard line this year (third-most) with just one score to show for it. That will turn around very soon. While Gardner Minshew is this week's top streaming option, D.J. Chark possesses week-winning upside against a Texans secondary getting flamed for 30.8 PPR points per game to receivers aligned out wide (second-most). Houston's pass defense has crumbled over the last month -- they've allowed seven top-20 receiver performances in fantasy -- and now J.J. Watt is out for the year. Dede Westbrook is questionable this week, and if he misses this game, Chris Conley becomes a very intriguing WR4 sleeper. Conley had eight targets in Week 7 and turned his 7 passing looks into 4/103/1 last week.
Bears at Eagles (at 1pm ET)
You likely have to start him but... TE Zach Ertz
Injuries to monitor: WR DeSean Jackson (abdomen); RB Miles Sanders (shoulder); RB Darren Sproles (quad)
Key Game Facts
-- Allen Robinson, Cooper Kupp, DeAndre Hopkins, and Michael Thomas are the only receivers to see at least 20 percent of their teams targets in every game
-- No team is allowing more PPR points per game to receivers aligned out wide than the Eagles (32.8)
-- Robinson runs two-thirds of his routes split out wide
When the Bears have the ball: Even though Mitchell Trubisky has sharply regressed in his third season, this is an absolute blow-up spot for Allen Robinson. A-Rob went nuts for 10/143/1 against Philadelphia in the Wild Card round in last year's playoffs and no team gets routinely flamed by elite wideouts than the Eagles. HC Matt Nagy claimed he was "not an idiot" after asking Trubisky to drop back to pass 56 times in Week 7 against the Saints and, to his credit, Nagy's gameplan changed course accordingly last week. David Montgomery was loaded up with 31 touches against the Chargers and he tallied 147 scrimmage yards and a score as the Bears workhorse back. Montgomery's 71 percent snap rate in Week 8 was a season-high. While it was great to see Nagy actually commit to Montgomery, this is a tough matchup against an Eagles front-seven allowing the league's third-fewest yards per carry (3.41). In fact, only Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed 65 yards rushing against Philadelphia. You will have to bet on volume if you need Montgomery as your RB2.
When the Eagles have the ball: After three-straight tough road draws against the Vikings, Cowboys, and Bills, Philadelphia returns back home for another tough matchup against the Bears. DeSean Jackson returning would boost this offense if he can make it back onto the field, but regardless of his status, we have to lower expectations for Wentz here. Chicago's defense hasn't been as dominant as it was last year, but they have yet to allow a single QB1 (top-12) fantasy performance against them. I'd stream Gardner Minshew and Derek Carr over Wentz this week. It's unlikely you have better options at tight end than Zach Ertz, but Dallas Goedert's emergence continues to be a thorn in his side. Over the last month, Dallas Goedert has compiled 13/150/2 receiving on 20 targets while Ertz has 13/169/1 on 26 targets in this span. The good news is that Chicago is allowing the ninth-most PPR points to opposing tight ends. Alshon Jeffery has tagged 5/52/1 and 6/82 in his two previous revenge games against the Bears and he carries his usual high-end WR3 appeal in this matchup. Jeffery hasn't hit any huge yardage totals yet this season, but he remains the Eagles top scoring option. Jeffery leads the Eagles in both red-zone (inside the 10 yard line) and end-zone targets. Jordan Howard saw 24 touches last week after Miles Sanders (shoulder) left early, but Sanders is expected to be fine for Week 9. Chicago's run defense showed signs of cracking after giving up huge performances to Josh Jacobs (26/123/2) and Latavius Murray (27/119/1) in Week 5 and 7 -- but the Eagles committee makes Howard an RB3/FLEX type for fantasy.
Colts at Steelers (at 1pm ET)
Key Game Facts
When the Colts have the ball: With 18 or more touches in 6-of-7 games, Marlon Mack remains a set-and-forget RB2 in season-long fantasy leagues. Indy will likely rely heavily on Mack and the run game this week because T.Y. Hilton hurt his calf in practice on Wednesday this week and has already been ruled out for the game. Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers will be the Colts top wideouts without Hilton while I'd bet on Parris Campbell getting the majority of the Colts snaps out of the slot. Like I mentioned in this space last week, Jacoby Brissett has been living off of short scores for his fantasy value. That's not always sustainable, especially on a run-first team. Only the Seahawks, Ravens, Vikings, and 49ers are more run-heavy than the Colts. I'd stream Gardner Minshew, Derek Carr, and Sam Darnold over Brissett this week. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron have split targets right down the middle this year (30:29), making both impossible to trust in fantasy. In theory, Hilton's absence helps Ebron and Doyle's outlook the most in this passing attack -- but I won't pretend to know who is the better play out of the duo.
When the Steelers have the ball: Pittsburgh's backfield situation is one of the biggest storylines to monitor for Week 9. James Conner exited last week with yet another injury, his fourth of the season. After dealing with knee, ankle, and quad injuries earlier this year, Conner is a game-time decision due to a shoulder injury this week. Jaylen Samuels is expected to return this week and would be a borderline RB1 play if Conner can't suit up because Pittsburgh's No. 3 RB, Benny Snell, needed knee surgery and is going to be sidelined multiple weeks. Samuels averaged 109.3 scrimmage yards on 18 touches per game in his three starts last year, finishing as a top-15 fantasy back in each game. JuJu Smith-Schuster predictably bounced back with 5/103/1 against the Dolphins last week after a one-catch performance with Devlin Hodges in Week 6. Smith-Schuster hasn't been the same fantasy WR1 we saw last year, but all of his efficiency stats are either nearly the same or slightly better this season compared to last. The issue with JuJu isn't talent. It's volume. After averaging 10.4 targets per game last year, Smith-Schuster is down to just 6.6 passing looks per game this year and he has yet to see double-digit targets in a contest this year. Diontae Johnson has continued to flash with Mason Rudolph under center, posting 3/52/1, 6/77/1, and 5/84/1 in Rudolph's three full starts. Johnson is a great sleeper WR4 option for those in deep 12- or 14-team leagues.
Jets at Dolphins (at 1pm ET)
Sleeper: WR DeVante Parker; WR Preston Williams
Key Game Facts
-- Miami has allowed a top-16 fantasy performance to every quarterback they've faced this year
-- Miami has also allowed a top-12 (WR1) fantasy performance in four of their last five games
When the Jets have the ball:Le'Veon Bell is going to lose his mind in fantasy football this week. The Dolphins have allowed over 120 yards from scrimmage to every backfield they have faced this year and, even though his production has disappointed so far, Bell has remained a workhorse back. Le'Veon has played over 80 percent of Jets' snaps in every game this year and a talented, every-down back facing this swiss cheese front-seven should make for a blow up performance. Both Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson are high-upside FLEX options in this matchup while Sam Darnold is firmly on the streaming radar. Darnold has been bad in three of his 4 starts and his head coach hasn't done him many favors with many questionable play calls and a lackluster scheme, but even Adam Gase can't mess this one up... right?
When the Dolphins have the ball:Mark Walton is the lone play-able Dolphin in most fantasy formats this weekend. In his first start without Kenyan Drake last week, Miami made Walton their featured back by playing him on a massive 87 percent of their plays and giving him 11 carries and 6 targets. New York's run defense is underrated even without Leonard Williams, but running backs with a bell-cow snap rate and a legitimate chance for 15-18 touches don't grow on trees. I get it... it's the Dolphins. But, I'd start Walton over the likes of Jordan Howard or Carlos Hyde as a FLEX option this week. Both Preston Williams and DeVante Parker are averaging over 4 receptions and 50 yards across their last five games and are viable deep league sleepers if you're desperate. The Jets are allowing the seventh-most PPR points per game to opposing wideouts.
Vikings at Chiefs (at 1pm ET)
Must Play: RB Dalvin Cook
Key Game Facts
-- Kansas City is allowing 5.5 yards per carry on outside-zone rush attempts, per PFF (second-most)
-- Stefon Diggs has caught 31 of his 37 targets for 604 yards and 3 TDs over the last five weeks (19.5 YPR; 84 percent catch rate)
When the Vikings have the ball:Dalvin Cook has the highest ceiling of any player in Week 9 against this Chiefs run defense that has struggled immensely all year long. Kansas City has allowed a top-20 fantasy back in six-straight games with four RBs finishing top-10 against them. It sounds like Adam Thielen is going to return this week after missing just one game with a pulled hammy. Before getting hurt, Thielen had previously recorded 75 yards and/or a TD in 5-of-6 games and he has the better matchup on paper over Diggs. Thielen runs about one-third of his routes from the slot and Kansas City's interior coverage is far more beatable than their boundary defense. Per Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs are allowing the eighth-most PPR points to receivers aligned out of the slot (21.8) and the fifth-fewest points per game to pass catchers out wide (16.5). Even though the Chiefs corners are keeping everything in front of them and forcing passes towards the middle of the field, Stefon Diggs is arguably the hottest receiver in the NFL and is virtually impossible to cover. Kirk Cousins had an efficient real life performance last week (23-of-26 for 285 yards), but he failed to get a touchdown, ending his streak of top-10 fantasy finishes at three. Cousins is a fine back-end QB1 this week, but pass volume remains the primary concern here on a run-first team. Cousins has attempted more than 30 passes just three times all year. If Dalvin Cook indeed goes off and the Vikings jump out to a lead, HC Mike Zimmer will be content barely throwing the ball at all.
When the Chiefs have the ball: Andy Reid predictably did a masterful job of scheming targets to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill last week with Matt Moore under center and I'd expect more of the same in Week 9 without Patrick Mahomes. There are plenty of better streaming options beyond Matt Moore this week, but we can confidently start Hill and Kelce in season-long lineups despite the QB downgrade. Hill doesn't have the same week-tilting ceiling he possesses with Mahomes, but he should have no issue getting loose against a struggling Vikings secondary that is allowing 29.3 PPR points per game to receivers aligned out wide (third-most). Hopefully, you can continue to avoid this Chiefs backfield committee. LeSean McCoy has 10, 14, and 13 touches over the last three weeks while Damien Williams has 2, 11, and 7 in this span. Meanwhile, Williams' longest gain on the ground is 9 yards this year. Gross.
Titans at Panthers (at 1pm ET)
Beware: TE Greg Olsen
Keep stashing on your bench: WR Corey Davis; WR A.J. Brown
Key Game Facts
-- Carolina is allowing the third-most yards (4.91) and the most fantasy points (0.88) per carry
-- Carolina has allowed over 100 yards on the ground in four of their past 5 games with only Tampa Bay failing to meet that mark
When the Titans have the ball:Derrick Henry possesses an enormous ceiling here. Henry has at least 15 carries in every single game so far and he has a chance to go off against this Panthers run defense that severely misses DT Kawaan Short (shoulder; IR), who hasn't played since Week 2. Outside of Henry, not many Titans will be in fantasy lineups this weekend. While Jonnu Smith will be the top TE streaming choice once again if Delanie Walker (ankle) misses, it'll take a leap of faith to click Corey Davis or A.J. Brown's name into a lineup this weekend. Davis and Brown are immensely talented and the Panthers secondary doesn't scare anyone, but pass volume remains the concern on this run-first attack. Both Davis and Brown have seen 6 or fewer targets in 7-of-8 games.
When the Panthers have the ball: Sort of like the Titans, the Panthers side is pretty easy to diagnose for fantasy this week. Christian McCaffrey has finished as a top-8 fantasy back in 6-of-7 games and his talent and role makes him completely matchup-proof. McCaffrey reminded us of his matchup-proof outlook with 155 yards from scrimmage on just 18 touches last week against the 49ers elite defense. The Titans secondary is burnable, but both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are low-ceiling WR3 options this week with Kyle Allen still under center. Moore (32 targets) and Samuel (30) have split passing looks down the middle over the last month while Olsen (15) has barely been involved in this span. With Moore and Samuel taking over as the team's clear top options outside of CMC, Olsen has fallen by the wayside. I'd consider streaming Jonnu Smith, T.J. Hockenson, and potentially Darren Fells over Olsen this week. Samuel had an odd week of practice, suiting up for a full practice on Thursday -- but he got both Wednesday and Friday off. If Samuel were to miss, it'd obviously boost Moore and Olsen's projection.
Redskins at Bills (at 1pm ET)
Start: QB Josh Allen; WR John Brown
Injuries to monitor: QB Case Keenum (concussion); RB Chris Thompson (toe); RB Adrian Peterson (ankle)
Key Game Facts
-- Terry McLaurin's 458 receiving yards are 13th-most for any rookie receiver in Weeks 1-8 since 2000
-- Amari Cooper (565 yards), A.J. Green (516), Michael Thomas (500), Andre Johnson (495), Allen Robinson (453), JuJu Smith-Schuster (424), Stefon Diggs (419), and DeAndre Hopkins (416) had similar fast starts in Weeks 1-8 in their rookie year
When the Redskins have the ball: If Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson do not suit up this week, the Redskins will be a team to ignore for Week 9 fantasy decisions. Peterson hasn't practiced all week with an ankle injury, and if he does not play, Wendell Smallwood will be the Redskins top back. Chris Thompson (toe) also hasn't practiced in weeks. Meanwhile, Terry McLaurin's fantasy outlook hinges entirely upon Keenum's status. Keenum remains in concussion protocol and if he can't play, we can't trust McLaurin in our lineups with Dwayne Haskins under center. If you have to start McLaurin this week, you're betting entirely on talent alone. The Bills secondary has continued to be a unit we'd ideally like to avoid, too. They're allowing the eighth-fewest points to receivers aligned out wide and the second-fewest PPR points per game to slot wideouts.
When the Bills have the ball:Josh Allen continues to just consistently post solid fantasy numbers with five top-15 performances in his last six games with his only failure coming against the Patriots. Allen is back on the QB1 radar once again against this Washington defense that doesn't scare anyone. John Brown has 50 or more yards in every game so far this year and he is one of the best WR2 plays of the week. Washington has allowed a top-24 (WR2 or better) fantasy performance in 6-of-8 contests this season. Outside of Allen, Brown, and the Bills D/ST, you're pretty much avoiding this team for fantasy purposes. Cole Beasley continues to be a low-upside WR4 option for PPR leagues while this backfield is a nightmare for fantasy. Frank Gore has 20 carries over the last two weeks while Devin Singletary is the change-of-pace runner and primary pass down back.
Buccaneers at Seahawks (at 4:05 ET)
Must Play: QB Russell Wilson; WR Tyler Lockett; WR Chris Godwin; WR Mike Evans
Stream: TE Cam Brate
Key Game Facts
-- Before playing Tennessee last week, Tampa Bay had previously allowed a top-20 fantasy performance to a receiver in five-straight games
-- In fact, a total of 7 different receivers tallied top-20 fantasy results against Tampa Bay from Week 2-6
-- When the game is within a score, Seahawks opponents have thrown against them 66 percent of the time while Bucs' opponents are throwing against them 65 percent of the time. These are the two highest pass rates in the league.
When the Buccaneers have the ball:Chris Godwin and Mike Evans keep trading off huge performances seemingly every week and both wideouts are must-starts in what should be the highest-scoring game of the week. Tampa Bay-Seattle has an over/under set at 53 points, by far the highest on the slate. It's definitely not always pretty, but Jameis Winston has logged QB13 or better fantasy results in four of his last 5 games and is back on the low-end QB1 radar in this likely shootout. Cam Brate saw six targets and played a season-high 67 percent of snaps last week without O.J. Howard (hamstring), but posted a measly 3 receptions and 32 yards on his near full-time usage. Howard is out again this week. Brate isn't sexy, but this matchup keeps him in play as a streaming option. Seattle has quietly struggled against tight ends this year, allowing the third-most yards and fourth-most PPR points per game to the position. You can continue to ignore this backfield for roster decisions.
When the Seahawks have the ball:Russell Wilson is this week's QB1 and he has a chance to push for a 30-plus point fantasy game if the Bucs' can keep up the scoring pace and force Wilson to keep throwing. Like we saw last week, Seattle is completely content to take their foot off of the gas when they get a lead. Wilson got just 20 pass attempts against Atlanta, which is borderline criminal. Even if Seattle goes run-heavy again, Tyler Lockett is going to absolutely shred this Bucs' secondary. Only DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper are better receiver plays than Lockett this week. D.K. Metcalf has certainly made some rookie mistakes this season, but he has week-tilting upside in this matchup. Metcalf leads the league in end-zone targets (12). By now, you know the Bucs' run defense is legit but Chris Carson's volume and touchdown appeal firmly keep him on the RB1 radar.
Lions at Raiders (at 4:05pm ET)
Start: QB Matthew Stafford; WR Kenny Golladay; WR Marvin Jones; WR Tyrell Williams; TE Darren Waller; RB Josh Jacobs
Stream: QB Derek Carr; TE T.J. Hockenson
Key Game Facts
-- Detroit's backfield usage last week was: Ty Johnson (40 percent snap rate), Tra Carson (30 percent), J.D. McKissic (25 percent) and Paul Perkins (10 percent)
-- Williams' 15.0 air yards per target is seventh-highest among receivers
When the Lions have the ball:Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones need to confidently plugged into all fantasy lineups this weekend. Stafford is inarguably having one of the best seasons of his career and his aggressive, attacking style gives this entire passing offense massive upside in Week 9. Stafford's 10.6 air yards per attempt is second behind only Jameis Winston (10.8) and the Raiders secondary ranks bottom-5 in yards and QB rating allowed. Oakland is also allowing a league-high 2.6 deep completions (20+ yards downfield) per game this year. This matchup and likely shootout keep both T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola viable in fantasy, at least for this week. Hockenson is a particularly interesting streamer option this week. Oakland is allowing the third-most PPR points per game to tight ends and have recently been touched up by both Jimmy Graham (4/65/1) and Darren Fells (6/58/2) over the last two weeks. Danny Amendola's usage has been all over the place this season, but he's tallied 8 receptions in back-to-back games and is a fine WR4 option in PPR leagues. The Raiders are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to slot wideouts.
When the Raiders have the ball: I absolutely love Derek Carr and Tyrell Williams in this matchup. Detroit has allowed at least 280 passing yards in every game this year, they have given up multiple passing scores in 5-of-7 games, and stud CB Darius Slay (hamstring) is questionable. Fantasy managers have to fire up Carr as a steamer, Williams as a high-upside WR2, and obviously lock-in Darren Waller into lineups. Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs is also a top-10 RB play this weekend. After inexplicably not getting involved in the Raiders passing game to start this season, Jacobs has at least 2 receptions and 15 carries in four-straight games.
Packers at Chargers (at 4:25pm ET)
Must Play: RB Aaron Jones
Start: QB Aaron Rodgers; RB Austin Ekeler; WR Keenan Allen; WR Mike Williams; TE Hunter Henry
Beware: RB Jamaal Williams; RB Melvin Gordon
Key Game Facts
-- L.A. has allowed a top-8 fantasy running back in four-straight games
When the Packers have the ball: It sure sounds like Davante Adams is getting close to returning after missing a month of action. The Packers have wisely given Adams plenty of time to rest and get his toe right, and if he's active, I'm firing him up in all season-long leagues. You don't need me to tell you that Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones are top-5 options at their position. However, the rest of these Packers remain tough to play in fantasy. Jamaal Williams has scored in three-straight games but he's only seen 10 carries over the last two weeks while Jones has 25 in this span. With Adams likely returning, you especially can't trust MVS or Jimmy Graham for Week 9 lineup decisions.
When the Chargers have the ball: After seeing just 17 targets in Weeks 4-6, Keenan Allen's volume has returned to normal with 11 and 10 passing looks over the last two weeks against the Titans and Bears. I'm betting on a statistical bounceback for Allen very soon. Mike Williams is overdue to score a touchdown this year and, at the very least, he has another solid matchup on paper against this Packers secondary that is allowing the second-most deep completions per game. Williams has seen over 20 percent of Chargers targets in three of his last four games. I'd start Williams over Courtland Sutton, Terry McLaurin, Kenny Stills, and Jarvis Landry -- to name a few options. Melvin Gordon had a nice 19-yard score last week, but his other 7 carries against Chicago gained only 12 yards. Per SharpFootball's Rich Hribar, the Chargers are now the first team since 1946 to rush for fewer than 40 yards in four-straight games. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler has just 16 carries over the last month since Gordon has returned. The matchup is absolutely perfect -- the Chargers are at home and the Packers are allowing a league-high 4.94 yards per carry -- but the Bolts struggling offensive line drags down expectations here. Ekeler can be trusted for his passing game usage while Gordon is just a touchdown-dependent RB2 option.
Browns at Broncos (at 4:25pm ET)
Start: RB Phillip Lindsay; RB Royce Freeman
Deep Streamer: TE Noah Fant
Key Game Facts
-- Opposing teams are running against Cleveland on 45 percent of plays when the game is within a score (eighth-highest rate)
-- Opposing teams are running against Denver on 46 percent of plays when the game is within a score (seventh-highest rate)
When the Browns have the ball:Odell Beckham is currently averaging career-lows in targets, yards, and catch rate and now has to dual against the red-hot Chris Harris Jr. this weekend. After Harris shut T.Y. Hilton down last week, the Broncos are now allowing a league-low 24.6 PPR points per game to opposing receivers. OBJ is talented enough to be matchup-proof, but it's hard to have anything more than blind confidence in his talent alone at this point. While Harris travels with Beckham this week, Jarvis Landry is a great PPR FLEX option this weekend. Not only does he get the added benefit of avoiding Harris, he's overdue for (positive) touchdown regression. Landry has a team-high seven red-zone targets and doesn't have a score to show for it (yet).
When the Broncos have the ball: With Brandon Allen under center, the only Broncos players we can rely on for fantasy this week are their running backs. Courtland Sutton is immensely talented and doesn't have any competition for targets with Emmanuel Sanders out of town, but Allen should still be considered a significant downgrade compared to Joe Flacco. Broncos star CB Chris Harris didn't inspire much confidence about Brandon Allen this week saying, "I'm not going to judge a guy off a scout team. I don't want to do Allen] like that." Yikes. [Phillip Lindsay has 15 or more touches in 6-of-8 games this year and both he and Royce Freeman are good-to-great RB2 plays against a Browns run defense allowing the sixth-most yards per carry and fourth-most rushing yards per game. I'm fully expecting Denver to make Lindsay and Freeman the focal points of their game-plan with Allen at the controls.
Patriots at Ravens (at 8:20pm ET)
PPR FLEX: RB James White
Beware: RB Sony Michel; WR Phillip Dorsett; WR Mohamed Sanu
Key Game Facts
-- Only Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Michael Thomas, Lamar Jackson, Austin Ekeler, and Aaron Jones have out-scored the Patriots defense in fantasy football this year
When the Patriots have the ball: Pass volume is the only thing keeping Tom Brady on the QB1 borderline at this point as the GOAT has turned in a pedestrian 268 yards per game, 6:4 TD-to-INT ratio, and a 83.8 passer rating over the last five weeks. Brady is averaging a massive 40.6 pass attempts per game in this span and that volume is fueling Julian Edelman's ridiculous 7.2 receptions per game since Week 4. Josh Gordon was officially released off of I.R. this week, locking in Phillip Dorsett as the Pats' field-stretcher this season. Unfortunately, I'm expecting Mohamed Sanu's usage to ramp up after he saw 5 targets and played on 54 percent of snaps last week while it sounds like N'Keal Harry (ankle) might be activated off of I.R. this week. I'd avoid Dorsett and Sanu in Week 9 roster decisions, if possible. Rex Burkhead's Week 8 return threw a wrench into the Pats' backfield once again. Burkhead played just 13 snaps and saw only 4 touches, but his presence severely harms both Sony Michel and James White's fantasy outlook. Over the last two years, Sony Michel has averaged a paltry 7.5 PPR points per contest in 12 games with Rex Burkhead. Michel puts up 15.4 points per game when Burkhead sits. James White has finished as a top-24 (RB2 or better) fantasy back in every game so far this season and is overdue to score a touchdown, but he also sees a significant dip in output when Burkhead plays (13.2 PPG with Burkhead vs. 19.0 PPG without him). White was a late add to the injury report on Friday (toe), so make sure you monitor his status throughout the weekend.
When the Ravens have the ball: I can't wait to see what the Ravens have schemed up through their bye week to try and defeat the Patriots defense. New England uses man coverage on a league-high 62 percent of their snaps and they will likely switch to a more zone-heavy game-plan in Week 9 to counteract Lamar Jackson's legs. In fact, Jackson has faced man coverage on just 22 percent of his dropbacks this season -- the lowest rate in the league. Unsurprisingly, Jackson has been far more effective when defenses call man coverage, putting up a ridiculous 14.2 yards per rush when scrambling against man coverage. The matchup is tough, but Jackson's scrambling ability gives him the highest floor at the position. I'd start Wilson, Watson, Prescott, and Rodgers over Lamar this week... and that's it. New England is the only team that has yet to allow a rushing score to a running back this season, but Mark Ingram's high-volume role in the red-zone keeps the light on for him to flirt with RB2 numbers. Ingram is seventh among all running backs in inside-10 (red-zone) carries and he's converted his 8 carries inside of the five-yard line into 6 touchdowns. The Pats' are allowing a league-low 5.7 PPR points per game to opposing tight ends, but Mark Andrews is impossible to bench unless you somehow also have Travis Kelce or Evan Engram. Andrews' Week 9 outlook will be enhanced a bit if Marquise Brown (ankle) can't suit up again.
Cowboys at Giants (at 8:15pm ET)
Must Play: QB Dak Prescott; RB Ezekiel Elliott; WR Amari Cooper; RB Saquon Barkley; TE Evan Engram
Start: WR Michael Gallup
Key Game Facts
-- Dak Prescott has thrown for over 330 yards with multiple passing scores in 3 of his last 4 games against the Giants
-- New York has allowed at least 24.5 fantasy points to every quarterback they've faced this season not named Case Keenum or Kyler Murray
When the Cowboys have the ball: Play all of your Cowboys in this spot. Prescott, Zeke, and Cooper are top-5 individual plays at their position while Michael Gallup gets a great chance to bounce back after posting just 4/48 and 3/34 over the last two weeks. The Giants are allowing the eighth-most PPR points per game to opposing receivers aligned out wide and that's where Gallup runs 84 percent of his routes.
When the Giants have the ball: New York's side is fairly straight-forward for fantasy this weekend, too. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are no-brainer plays, with Engram potentially being the top TE play for Week 9. Engram has wrecked the Cowboys over the last two years, posting 7/67/1, 5/81/1, and 11/116/1 stat lines. The Cowboys are allowing the 5th-most PPR points per game to enemy tight ends to boot. Golden Tate has been a stud WR2 in PPR leagues over the last three weeks without Sterling Shepard, posting 6/102/1, 6/80, and 8/85 against the Pats, Cardinals, and Lions. Tate has seen at least nine targets in these three contests -- but Sterling Shepard has cleared concussion protocol, putting him on track to return against Dallas. Tate will man the slot with Shepard returning as the Giants primary boundary receiver and I fear both receivers will cannibalize each other's production a bit moving forward. Daniel Jones has shown great flashes at times, but he's still a rookie and I'm not convinced that he can keep up four fantasy-relevant players at once.
- -- Graham Barfield is a fantasy editor and analyst for NFL.com. Catch him on the NFL Fantasy Football podcast with Marcas Grant and Michael Fabiano, Fantasy LIVE on NFL Network, watch him on Fantasy League One, and follow him on Twitter @GrahamBarfield. *