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Week 9 fantasy football matchups, starts and sits

Six teams are on byes again this week, putting fantasy managers in a pinch, once again. As was the case last week, I try to highlight plenty of options who could be picked up and started this week, but with a few high-powered offenses on byes (Patriots, Chargers, Steelers) and several offenses in brutal matchups (Eagles, Bengals, Falcons) these fantasy streets are pretty rough.

As always, this is where I go game-by-game and player-by-player for every Week 9 contest. Those looking for quick-hitting start/sit/flex/stream analysis will find that listed for the main players for every team. Below that, I do my best to preview the game with additional insight, stats, and analysis to contextualize my recommendations.

This column wouldn't be possible without our incredible research teams, both @NFLResearch and the fine folks at Next Gen Stats. So thanks to all of you and all that you do.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)

 » Matthew Stafford, QB: START
 » Ameer Abdullah, RB: SIT
 » Theo Riddick, RB: SIT
 » Golden Tate, WR: START
 » Marvin Jones, WR: START
 » Kenny Golladay, WR: SIT
 » Lions TEs: SIT
 » Lions D/ST: STREAM

The Lions offense has a scoring problem, and it starts with Matthew Stafford. He's thrown six touchdowns and three interceptions in his last five games after throwing six touchdowns and one pick in his first two outings. However, this Packers defense could help cure his ills. They're allowing 24.5 points per game over their last two outings, and the unit was banged up heading into the bye. I'm still not trusting this backfield for fantasy purposes. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick have combined for a mere four top-30 finishes through seven games (standard scoring). The Packers have allowed eight total touchdowns to opposing backs and give up 111.3 yards per game on the ground, but I'm still not buying these two and their diminished workloads with Dwayne Washington and/or Zach Zenner getting in the mix as well. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones should be on your radar though. The Packers secondary has been struggling this year, allowing the sixth-most yards per game to wideouts and a 65.2 percent catch rate (fourth-highest). Kenny Golladay is missing practice again this week and seems like a long-shot to play. Eric Ebron and Darren Fells continue to split minimal opportunities and aren't startable in fantasy. The Lions defense is a solid streaming option, as Brett Hundley has done nothing to instill confidence that he can move this offense with regularity. But, more importantly, the Lions get two more plus matchups after this: vs. Browns, at Bears. Grab them this week and then ride with the pride until at least Week 12.

 » Brett Hundley, QB: SIT
 » Aaron Jones, RB: START
 » Ty Montgomery, RB: SIT
 » Jordy Nelson, WR: START
 » Davante Adams, WR: START
 » Martellus Bennett, TE: SIT
 » Packers D/ST: SIT

Brett Hundley has been objectively bad through his one-plus games of action this year. He ranks dead last among all quarterbacks with 50-plus attempts in yards per attempt (4.1), passing yards (244), passing touchdowns (one), and passer rating (40.5). You could talk yourself into believing a story that after the bye week he comes out and proves he's at least a competent starter at home (Mike McCarthy is 9-2 after bye weeks), but I'd rather not risk it. This backfield should belong to Aaron Jones if the Packers know what's best for the offense. He's averaging 5.6 yards per carry on his 62 attempts and looks great on tape. I'd sit Ty Montgomery, though, as his role is tough to predict without knowing how healthy he is coming out of the bye. While I laid into Hundley hard above, I still think fantasy managers can turn to Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams this week. Both figure to vie for the team lead in targets, and both are also excellent in the red zone. If Hundley can put the offense in scoring position, Nelson or Adams would be the most likely to benefit. Randall Cobb and Martellus Bennett shouldn't be started with Hundley under center. The Packers defense is a decent unit, but I'd look elsewhere for a streamer as Hundley could put them in a bunch of bad spots with turnovers or three and outs, plus Stafford can move his offense quite well.


Buffalo Bills at New York Jets, 8:25 p.m. ET on NFL Network (Thursday)

 » Tyrod Taylor, QB: STREAM
 » LeSean McCoy, RB: START
 » Kelvin Benjamin, WR: SIT
 » Nick O'Leary, TE: STREAM
 » Bills D/ST: START

The Buffalo offense hasn't been one to target much for fantasy outside of Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy, though this week I'm slightly concerned with Taylor. The offense as a whole is struggling on the road this year, averaging nearly 14 fewer points per game and averaging 135 fewer total yards per game, while Taylor is posting just 10.64 fantasy points per game versus 18.33 at home. However, I think Taylor is still at least streamable, as the Jets have given up a league-high 17 passing touchdowns. Since the Bills' Week 6 bye where they revamped the running game, McCoy is averaging 25 carries and 121 yards per game and has scored three times after not finding the end zone once in his first five games. He's a weekly must-start. The Bills swung a huge trade before the deadline to acquire Kelvin Benjamin. Their wide receiving corps desperately needed a spark, and Benjamin could provide it ... but I wouldn't start him this week. He's joining a new team TWO DAYS before their next game. He'll have minimal time with the playbook or to build any sort of timing/rapport with Taylor. Desperate streamers could give Nick O'Leary a look. He's crossed 50 receiving yards twice in the last three weeks, and the Jets have allowed six touchdowns to the position. The Bills defense has been one of the more consistent fantasy units this season, as their lowest output is seven points (last week vs. Tampa Bay). Josh McCown has been sacked three-plus times in five straight games now and has thrown five picks in his last five games. The Bills currently rank second in the league with 11 interceptions.

 » Josh McCown, QB: STREAM
 » Jets RBs: See below
 » Jermaine Kearse, WR: SIT
 » Robby Anderson, WR: FLEX
 » Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE: START
 » Jets D/ST: SIT

Josh McCown is currently riding a three-week streak of finishing in the top 10 in weekly quarterback scoring, though a home date with the Bills could slow him down from stretching it to four. The Bills have allowed three consecutive 300-yard passers, but have dampened the fantasy scoring potential by conceding just five touchdowns versus five interceptions in that span. McCown will be a low-end streaming option. The Jets own one of the most frustrating fantasy backfield committees, as Bilal Powell leads the team in rush attempts (74) and rushing yards (316), while Matt Forte leads the backfield in targets (28), receptions (25) and receiving yards (203). The Bills run defense is stout, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry and 70.9 rushing yards per game. They have been beaten for 43 receptions and 354 yards by opposing backs (both middle of the pack figures), so Forte could be in the mix as a PPR option. Otherwise, this backfield is one to avoid. Robby Anderson leads the Jets in targets (52) and receiving yards (435), and now has 59-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his six last games. The Bills pass defense is strong, but Anderson will be a flex at worst with six teams (including a few strong passing offenses) on byes. Austin Seferian-Jenkins disappointed last week but remains an every-week starter at his position. Since his first game in Week 3 he ranks sixth in targets (39), second in receptions (31), 15th in yards (201), and third in touchdowns (three) at his position. Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley are each averaging fewer than five targets per game in that span and are hard to trust. The Jets defense has scored six or fewer fantasy points in six of eight games this year, but the Bills have allowed two top-10 fantasy performances to opposing defenses when on the road this year. I'd look elsewhere for a streamer, personally.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Jacoby Brissett, QB: STREAM
 » Frank Gore, RB: FLEX
 » Marlon Mack, RB: FLEX
 » T.Y. Hilton, WR: FLEX
 » Jack Doyle, TE: START
 » Colts D/ST: SIT

Over the last three weeks, the Texans are allowing 294 passing yards per game, though most of those have come from 400-plus yard performances from Alex Smith and Russell Wilson. Still, Jacoby Brissett could be a streamer this week coming off a decent performance (233 yards, 2 TDs, INT) against the Bengals. Add in the fact that Brissett could be in a pass-heavy game script early in this contest, and there's reason enough for optimism. Frank Gore crossed 100 scrimmage yards for the first time all season last week, but has only three games with over 70 scrimmage yards this season. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3 and is losing work to Marlon Mack, as well. Both are low-end flex plays here, with Mack offering up a bit more upside (he's scored twice in the last four weeks), though the Texans are allowing just 72.9 rushing yards per game to opposing backs. Over the last three weeks T.Y. Hilton has caught just five of 19 targets for 61 yards. This is a great matchup against the Texans and Hilton has historically owned them -- averages 5.5 catches and 94.2 yards per game with seven of his 31 career touchdowns (22.6 percent) versus Houston. Owners will have to determine how much they trust Hilton after a string of back-breaking fantasy performances. In that same span, Jack Doyle has been a revelation, catching 25 of his 32 targets for 215 yards and two scores. The Texans just gave up two touchdowns to Jimmy Graham, and allow the 10th most yards to the position. We're not starting the Colts defense in general, much less against a red-hot Texans offense.

 » Tom Savage, QB: SIT
 » Lamar Miller, RB: START
 » D'Onta Foreman, RB: SIT
 » DeAndre Hopkins, WR: START
 » Will Fuller, WR: START
 » Ryan Griffin, TE: SIT
 » Texans D/ST: START

The NFL received some absolutely terrible news on Thursday when NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Texans fear rookie sensation Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice. This is devastating, as the team had been reaching new heights with a real quarterback under center. Now ... everything is up in the air. Tom Savage will return to starting duties, and he's been mediocre at the very best. He still doesn't have a touchdown pass to his name through three career starts and five significant appearances. I'd still give Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins a chance this week as the Colts defense isn't strong. Since Fuller returned in Week 4, he and Hopkins own 49.2 percent of the team targets and 59 percent of the team receiving yards (and have caught 13 combined touchdowns). Watson's emergence had done wonders for the fantasy value of Lamar Miller, too. Over the last four weeks he's averaging 93.5 total yards per game and has scored four touchdowns, but now we'll have to see how defenses adjust without the threat of a vertical passing game. This was all despite the fact that D'Onta Foreman and Alred Blue have stolen over 35 percent of the backfield carries in that span. With Hopkins and Fuller absorbing all of the volume, Ryan Griffin has had to fight for scraps. He's off the streaming radar for now until his volume swings back in a more positive direction (19 targets in last four games). Since losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus in Week 5, the Texans fantasy defense has scored -3, 22, and 0 fantasy points. Still, at home against the generous Colts offense (most fantasy points per game allowed to opposing D/STs), this group could be worth a look. Jacoby Brissett has been sacked three-plus times in six of his seven starts, and he could be forced to pass A LOT against this offense.

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Andy Dalton, QB: SIT
 » Bengals RBs: SIT
 » A.J. Green, WR: START
 » Tyler Kroft, TE: STREAM
 » Bengals D/ST: STREAM

Andy Dalton simply cannot be started on the road against the Jaguars, who have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (four) in the league to go along with 10 interceptions (tied for third-most). I'm done with this Bengals backfield. Joe Mixon continues to lead the way by a wide margin in playing time and touches but isn't doing much with them. His season-high rushing yardage output was 62 in Week 3, and he needed a 67-yard catch and run to do anything last week. Sure, the Jaguars have been gashed by running backs this year but they traded for Marcel Dareus, an excellent run-stuffer before the deadline. I'd avoid starting Mixon (and obviously Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard) if you can help it. With six teams on byes it'll be all but impossible not to start A.J. Green, but I won't feel great about it. The Jaguars are allowing just 115 yards per game to the position with two touchdowns on the year and a 51.4 percent catch rate (third-lowest). Tyler Kroft can be streamed for those desperately in need of a tight end, but the Jaguars are allowing the sixth-fewest yards per game to the position (39.7) with just two touchdowns. Even on the road, I think the Bengals defense is in play against Blake Bortles. We know a turnover-heavy game is always on the table with Bortles, and the Bengals defense has been strong this year. The Bengals have multiple sacks in five of their last six games, and an interception in four of their last five.

 » Blake Bortles, QB: SIT
 » Leonard Fournette, RB: SIT (OUT!!!)
 » Chris Ivory, RB: FLEX
 » T.J. Yeldon, RB: FLEX
 » Marqise Lee, WR: SIT
 » Allen Hurns, WR: SIT
 » Jaguars D/ST: START

Blake Bortles has finished outside the top-14 weekly fantasy scorers every week except one (his four-touchdown aberration in London). He's thrown one or fewer touchdowns in every game save one (London) and has thrown for 245-plus yards just once (last week). He's not a usable fantasy quarterback. Leonard Fournette is a surprise INACTIVE today for breaking team rules. That puts Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon into the flex mix, as they split work pretty evenly a few weeks back when Fournette was out. Grab whichever you can off the waiver wire this morning. The Bengals allow the lowest catch rate in the league to opposing wideouts (47.4) and are one of two teams allowing fewer yards per game than the Jaguars to the position. Andy Dalton has been sacked 22 times this year (tied third-most) and the Jaguars lead the NFL with 33 quarterback takedowns. The "Sacksonville" stop unit will be one of the top defensive plays of the week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Jameis Winston, QB: SIT
 » Doug Martin, RB: START
 » Mike Evans, WR: START
 » DeSean Jackson, WR: FLEX
 » Cameron Brate, TE: START
 » O.J. Howard, TE: SIT
 » Buccaneers D/ST: SIT

Jameis Winston is still ailing from the ill effects of the AC joint sprain he suffered back in Week 6, which he apparently reinjured in Week 7. His status is in question, but whether it's Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick under center I'm avoiding the Bucs passers. Since Week 2, the Saints defense is allowing just 277.6 total yards per game, and only one quarterback has finished in the top 12 in weekly scoring against them in that span (Matthew Stafford, QB11). Doug Martin should be a strong play though, as his volume kept him afloat in a bad matchup last week (19 touches, 75 yards). The Saints are a more favorable opponent, as they've allowed a 100-yards rusher in consecutive weeks (Jordan Howard, Aaron Jones) and are conceding 4.5 yards per carry to opposing backs. Mike Evans hasn't had a blow-up game yet, but he's seeing consistent volume (9.7 targets per game) and has posted 60-plus yards and/or a touchdown in six of seven games. Despite pretty consistent volume (six to nine targets every week) DeSean Jackson's fantasy output has been a roller-coaster. He's had 73-plus yards and/or a touchdown in four games, but 37 or fewer yards in the other three. After his two-touchdown outing O.J. Howard saw just two targets. We told you not to chase that production because Cameron Brate is the primary pass-catching option and a weekly fantasy start. The Bucs defense has posted under four fantasy points in four of seven weeks and is not one to start in fantasy.

 » Drew Brees, QB: START
 » Mark Ingram, RB: START
 » Alvin Kamara, RB: FLEX
 » Michael Thomas, WR: START
 » Ted Ginn, WR: FLEX
 » Coby Fleener, TE: SIT
 » Saints D/ST: START

Drew Brees is at home against a bad pass defense (280.9 yards per game, 12 touchdowns allowed) but he's throwing the ball on less than 50 percent of his plays over the last three weeks, the fifth-lowest percentage in that span. As long as your expectations are measured you're likely to be OK with Brees' production this week. Don't let the fumbles last week fool you, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara remain weekly plays. Even though the Bucs are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry I can't turn away from Ingram and Kamara based on their volume and production in this new run-heavy approach in New Orleans. They've combined for five top-13 fantasy finishes over the last three weeks, with Kamara's RB23 outing (in standard) in Week 6 being the lone miss. Michael Thomas has been quite consistent in fantasy, with 77-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. He's yet to cross 90 yards, though perhaps that can change this week against a Bucs secondary allowing 191.4 yards per game to wideouts (third-most). Ted Ginn has seen more than four targets just once in his last five games, though he's produced 66-plus yards in three straight weeks. He's a low-end flex play this week with so many teams off. Since Week 3 the Saints have 16 sacks, nine interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. The Tampa Bay quarterbacks have been sacked 11 times and picked off eight times in that same span.

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Jared Goff, QB: STREAM
 » Todd Gurley, RB: START
 » Sammy Watkins, WR: FLEX
 » Robert Woods, WR: START PPR
 » Cooper Kupp, WR: LOW-END FLEX
 » Tyler Higbee, TE: STREAM
 » Rams D/ST: START

Three of the last four quarterbacks to face the Giants have thrown for 250-plus yards and three touchdowns, and now Big Blue will be without top cornerback Janoris Jenkins as he was suspended by the team. This is great news for Jared Goff, who should be at the top of the streaming list coming off of his bye. Todd Gurley is the engine of this offense, and his eight total touchdowns are tied for most among running backs. The Giants allow nearly 150 total yards per game to opposing backs, so Gurley should have ample opportunities to produce. Sammy Watkins has just five catches over his last four games for 70 yards, but this game could be a perfect "get right" game for him. With Janoris Jenkins suspended by the team, it opens up a void in the pass defense. Jenkins primarily covers the offensive left side of the field, where Watkins lines up most frequently (53 percent of his snaps). Robert Woods is a nice floor-play, as he has five-plus catches and 59-plus yards in four of his last five games, while Cooper Kupp has 51-plus yards and a touchdown in two of his last four. He's a bit more boom-or-bust, and it's hard to tell if he'll still face Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot, or if DRC will kick outside with Jenkins gone. Tyler Higbee leads the Rams tight ends 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. The Giants offensive line is leaky, and the team is without several top playmakers. The Rams defense, even on the road, will be one of the week's best plays.

 » Eli Manning, QB: SIT
 » Orleans Darkwa, RB: FLEX
 » Sterling Shepard, WR: START
 » Evan Engram, TE: START
 » Giants D/ST: SIT

Eli Manning has thrown for under 150 yards and one touchdown in each of his last two games. The return of Sterling Shepard is encouraging but won't be enough to lift Manning into starting consideration. Orleans Darkwa will be on the flex radar this week, as the Rams allow the sixth-most rushing yards per game to backs and have given up nine total touchdowns to the position. Darkwa leads all Giants backs with 48 percent playing time the last two weeks. Shepard, meanwhile, should fall into a sizable workload. In the two games since Shepard, Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris were injured, Giants wide receivers have combined for seven catches for 67 yards. That's ... not good. Evan Engram has been a savior during that stretch, though, hauling in 11 of his 19 targets for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Aside from a one-week blip (four targets, zero catches vs. Los Angeles), Engram has been a strong tight end start every week. The Rams offense allows just over four fantasy points to opposing defenses per game, so I'd avoid the Giants if you can.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Matt Ryan, QB: SIT
 » Devonta Freeman, RB: FLEX
 » Tevin Coleman, RB: FLEX
 » Julio Jones, WR: START
 » Mohamed Sanu, WR: FLEX
 » Austin Hooper, TE: SIT
 » Falcons D/ST: SIT

Matt Ryan has thrown multiple touchdowns in just two of seven games this year, has crossed 300 yards once, and has yet to post more than 18 fantasy points in a game. I would not start him against Carolina's third-ranked pass defense if you can help it. Devonta Freeman is dealing with a minor shoulder injury but has practiced all week. He's still a solid start, but his workload has been concerning as he's averaged just 13 touches per game over Atlanta's last three and he hasn't found the end zone since Week 4. Tevin Coleman's 15 touches in Week 8 were a season-high, and this was his second game of the year with 100-plus scrimmage yards. With Freeman banged up, perhaps Coleman sees a few more touches this week again. It'll be tough sledding for both backs, though, as the Panthers allow just 3.6 yards per carry and 66.6 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs. The Panthers secondary has played well, as they've yet to allow a top-12 weekly finish for opposing wide receivers and only four top-20 performances. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu should have enough volume to at least produce as flex options. In the five games they've both been healthy this year they account for 63.4 percent of the non-backfield targets. Austin Hooper found the end zone last week, but that was the first game all season where Hooper saw more than two targets when Sanu was healthy. I'm not chasing his production as he faces off against the Panthers elite defense. Cam Newton could cough up the football once or twice, but I'm not trusting the Falcons defense on the road here.

 » Cam Newton, QB: START
 » Christian McCaffrey, RB: FLEX PPR
 » Jonathan Stewart, RB: SIT
 » Devin Funchess, WR: START
 » Ed Dickson, TE: STREAM
 » Panthers D/ST: SIT

Cam Newton is averaging 201 passing yards per game over his last three, with two touchdown passes and six interceptions in that span. His rushing production (165 yards, one touchdown) in those games has kept his fantasy value from hitting rock bottom. Newton also just lost his favorite wide receiver (Kelvin Benjamin) via trade, further dampening his outlook. It'll be hard to sit Newton with six teams on byes, but it's also tough to see too high of a ceiling. I know Jonathan Stewart scored last week, but I'm still not trusting him in fantasy. Ryan Kalil could be back, which would be a boost, but with the team turning to Cameron Artis-Payne for a spark last week, this backfield is almost completely unusable in fantasy. The lone option is Christian McCaffrey in PPR, as his season-low catch total in a game is four, and his 49 receptions on the year currently rank third in the entire NFL. Devin Funchess has eight-plus targets in five of his last six games, but Newton's struggles have hurt his output, as he's averaging just 29.3 yards per game over his last three, with no touchdowns. With Benjamin out of the picture, it stands to reason that Funchess should see an uptick in targets, but how much he'll do with that volume remains to be seen. Much like Funchess, Ed Dickson has had solid volume of late (five-plus targets in four straight), but since his 175-yard outburst in Week 5 he's averaging 26 yards per game. Matt Ryan has only been sacked multiple times once in the last four weeks and has thrown just one interception over his last three. The Panthers defense is at home, but their fantasy ceiling feels low this week.

Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Brock Osweiler, QB: SIT
 » C.J. Anderson, RB: SIT
 » Demaryius Thomas, WR: LOW-END START
 » Emmanuel Sanders, WR: LOW-END START
 » A.J. Derby, TE: SIT
 » Broncos D/ST: SIT

The Broncos just missed out, man. Brock Osweiler will be starting under center in place of Trevor Siemian, and now we can't make any Brock-tober jokes. I would absolutely not start Osweiler though, despite the Eagles presenting a nice matchup (allowing 256.8 passing yards per game, 26th in NFL). Osweiler in his career as a starter (21 games) averages just 215.5 yards per game with 23 TDs to 21 INTs. With rush totals of 15, 10, and nine the last three weeks, it's hard to feel confident in C.J. Anderson this week, especially since he's facing the Eagles stone wall of a run defense. No team allows fewer rushing yards per game than Philadelphia to opposing running backs (43.5). Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker are also getting in on the action, further depressing the outlook for this backfield. Demaryius Thomas still has not found the end zone, but has five-plus catches and 66-plus yards in five of seven games. He's a low-ceiling PPR play. Emmanuel Sanders looks set to return this week from his ankle injury and could be a low-end play as well. It's hard to get excited about these two great receivers with Osweiler under center set to face an Eagles secondary that could be welcoming back Ronald Darby. I'd avoid starting the Denver defense on the road against the league's fourth-highest scoring offense.

 » Carson Wentz, QB: START
 » LeGarrette Blount, RB: SIT
 » Jay Ajayi, RB: SIT
 » Wendell Smallwood, RB: SIT
 » Alshon Jeffery, WR: LOW-END FLEX
 » Nelson Agholor, WR: LOW-END FLEX
 » Torrey Smith, WR: SIT
 » Zach Ertz, TE: OUT
 » Eagles D/ST: START

The Denver defense is still limiting passing yardage this year, giving up just over 200 per game. However, they've been susceptible to passing touchdowns (perhaps because their offense puts them in bad spots), as their 5.45 touchdown rate allowed is the fifth-highest in the league. Carson Wentz should be just fine this week at home against this tough defense. I really have no idea what to make of this backfield this week with Jay Ajayi entering the fray. Given that he's had minimal practice time with the team, I'd expect LeGarrette Blount to still lead the way, but the team will want to get Ajayi some live reps. I'd avoid this bunch if possible, as they'll be splitting work and running into the teeth of the league's second-best run defense (62.4 rushing yards per game allowed to running backs). Someone is likely going to catch a touchdown from the group of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith. Trying to figure out who that will be against the Broncos (who allow the fewest yards per game to opposing wideouts - 95.4). Much like with the backfield, I'd steer clear of this group if possible. This feels like one of those "buy the syrup (Wentz) not the pancakes (WRs)" situations we discuss on the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. The Broncos currently allow the second-most yards per game to tight ends (77.6) and that's despite their Week 1 game against the Chargers when Antonio Gates had a mere two catches for 17 yards on three targets (Hunter Henry wasn't targeted). Each of the last three tight ends to face Denver have posted 73-plus yards, and two have found the end zone. Zach Ertz is OUT this week. Brent Celek could be an immediate plug-and-play option as he's played ahead of Trey Burton on offense. The Eagles defense gets to play at home against a subpar quarterback making his first start of the year behind a shaky offensive line. Yes, please.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Joe Flacco, QB: SIT
 » Alex Collins, RB: START
 » Jeremy Maclin, WR: FLEX
 » Mike Wallace, WR: SIT
 » Benjamin Watson, TE: SIT
 » Ravens D/ST: START

Joe Flacco is working his way back from a concussion and fully expects to play on Sunday, but fantasy fans shouldn't turn to him. He's thrown one or zero touchdowns in seven of eight games and his season-high yardage output is 235. Please, please let Alex Collins own this backfield this week after his dominant performance on Thursday night (18 carries, 113 yards). He's the best back on this roster right now and is worth a start even against a stout Tennessee run defense (3.4 yards per carry, 81.4 allowed per game). Jeremy Maclin was off to a roaring start last week before Joe Flacco's concussion, catching three of his four targets for 53 yards and a touchdown. The Titans secondary has been shredded this year for 130.7 yards per game by opposing wideouts with nine touchdowns allowed. Maclin is a decent low-end flex (if Flacco plays). This is a low-volume passing attack, though, and the rest of the options (Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson, etc.) really don't merit consideration. The last four defenses to face the Titans finished 12th, 17th, second, and second in weekly D/ST fantasy scoring. The Ravens boast a strong stop unit that has had 10 days to prepare for the Titans struggling offense. Giddy up.

 » Marcus Mariota, QB: SIT
 » DeMarco Murray, RB: START
 » Derrick Henry, RB: SIT
 » Corey Davis, WR: FLEX
 » Rishard Matthews, WR: SIT
 » Eric Decker, WR: SIT
 » Jonnu Smith, TE: STREAM
 » Titans D/ST: STREAM

There's hope for Marcus Mariota in that his hamstring could have healed up over the bye, but his play the last four games has been, well, not good. He's averaging 208 yards per game over his last four with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and has thrown one or zero touchdown passes in five of his six games. The Ravens have allowed just 195.8 passing yards per game in 2017, and lead the league with 12 interceptions. DeMarco Murray should return to his lead role in this backfield coming out of the bye. Even while nursing a hamstring injury and suffering a shoulder injury in Week 7, he still out-snapped (43-30) and out-touched (21-15) Derrick Henry. Murray has four-plus targets in each of his last three games, too, helping secure a bit safer floor. The Ravens can be beaten on the ground, as they allow 119 yards on the ground per game to opposing backs. Corey Davis is set to return for the first time since Week 2, and he will likely be welcomed back with open arms by this mediocre passing attack. Davis saw 24 percent of the team targets in his only full game this year, catching six of 10 for 69 yards. He's a decent flex play against a tough Baltimore defense. I'd sit Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker as we see how the targets are redistributed between this trio. If forced to play one, at least Matthews has a more established rapport and track record with Mariota. Delaine Walker could miss this game with an ankle injury, which would put Jonnu Smith on the streaming radar. Walker owns a 22.5 percent market share of the team targets, and many of those could fall to Smith if Walker is out. Matt Franchise makes a case for streaming the Titans defense here, but I'm looking for other options if I can help it.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Drew Stanton, QB: SIT
 » Adrian Peterson, RB: START
 » Larry Fitzgerald, WR: FLEX
 » Cardinals D/ST: SIT

Drew Stanton averages 186.7 passing yards per game in his 13 career starts, completing just 54.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Don't get cute and try to stream him. The Cardinals running play percentage predictably increases with Stanton under center (from 38.5 percent to 44.2), but I'm still worried about Adrian Peterson. He crashed back to Earth last week (11 carries, 21 yards) and is running behind a shaky line with no threat of a passing game to keep defenses honest. However, the 49ers are vulnerable to the run game (113.3 yards per game to opposing backs, six touchdowns), so there's reason for optimism thanks to Peterson's projected volume. In 10 games without Carson Palmer since 2013, Larry Fitzgerald averages four catches for 41.3 yards per game and has scored two touchdowns. He could see some volume here, though, so I'd give him a shot in the flex. The Cardinals defenses has some talented players, but on the road here isn't a great spot for them.

 » C.J. Beathard, QB: SIT
 » Carlos Hyde, RB: START
 » Pierre Garcon, WR: SIT (OUT)
 » Marquise Goodwin, WR: FLEX
 » George Kittle, TE: SIT
 » 49ers D/ST: STREAM

C.J. Beathard figures to get the start here while the 49ers get new acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo up to speed, but the rookie should not be starting for your fantasy squad. His passing yardage has dipped in three straight games, and he's thrown two touchdowns to three interceptions on the year. Carlos Hyde should get the volume necessary to not completely ghost you as a low-end RB2 or flex (averaging 17.3 touches per game over his last three). Hopefully this week Matt Breida doesn't steal a touchdown. Pierre Garcon landed on IR this week with his next injury and will miss the rest of the season. Marquise Goodwin could be a dart throw. He was held catch-less on three targets in last week's rain-soaked disaster of a game, but was averaging eight targets per game in the three contests before that. George Kittle has target totals of four and one over the last two weeks and is too volatile to trust as a streaming option with so much uncertainty under center. I think the 49ers are a sneaky streaming option this week. They have four interceptions in their last five games, and three-plus sacks in three of those as well. The Cardinals pass protection is suspect and Drew Stanton owns a 3.9 career interception rate (that'd be tied for fourth-highest in the NFL in 2017).

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Kirk Cousins, QB: START
 » Rob Kelley, RB: SIT
 » Chris Thompson, RB: START
 » Redskins WRs: See below
 » Vernon Davis, TE: START
 » Redskins D/ST: SIT

Kirk Cousins didn't produce as expected last week, but that can partially be attributed to both the rain and that he was missing three offensive linemen. He should be in a nice bounce-back spot here against a Seattle secondary that was just carved up by Deshaun Watson and could be without Earl Thomas. With Thomas on the field they allowed just 16 passing touchdowns and picked off 17 passes over 642 passing plays (since 2016). Without Thomas, they allowed nine touchdowns with just two picks on 199 passing plays. Rob Kelley is struggling to get going behind this banged up offensive line, and could be a victim of game script here if the Seahawks and Redskins get locked into a shootout. That's good news for the team's No. 1 receiver ... Chris Thompson. His 442 receiving yards on the season are tops on Washington and rank 20th in the whole league. As for the actual wide receivers, perhaps this is the week for a true Josh Docston breakout. Over the last two weeks he trails only Jamison Crowder in playing time, and Crowder is battling a hamstring injury (I wouldn't have chased his production from last week regardless). If Crowder is limited or out, Doctson could benefit big-time in the targets department. I'd give him a shot in the flex, but wouldn't touch any of the other receivers here. With Jordan Reed likely OUT with a hamstring injury, Vernon Davis should be on the streaming radar. He leads the team in receiving yards over the last four weeks. For more on Davis, check out Franchise's streaming article. There's a 0 percent chance I consider rostering or starting the Washington defense against this white-hot Seahawks offense.

 » Russell Wilson, QB: START
 » Seahawks RBs: SIT
 » Doug Baldwin, WR: START
 » Tyler Lockett, WR: FLEX
 » Paul Richardson, WR: FLEX
 » Jimmy Graham, TE: START
 » Seahawks D/ST: START

Let's get this out of the way right away: DO NOT START THE SEAHAWKS RUNNING BACKS. I know six teams are on their bye, but if you can help it avoid Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, J.D. McKissic et al like the plague. They're splitting up peanuts for carries and targets and aren't playing all that well individually anyway. Color me skeptical about this "Eddie Lacy leading the way" narrative they're peddling OK, now onto the good stuff. The Seahawks passing attack is catching fire, and Russell Wilson is playing out of his mind. He's scored three-plus total touchdowns and thrown for 295-plus passing yards in four of his last five games. Wilson's play is elevating all of the pass-catchers as well, and those hurting from the bye weeks shouldn't be afraid to roll the dice with Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson. Lockett's the safer bet with more volume of late (24 targets vs. 17 over the last four), but Richardson is the big-play threat and leads the team with five touchdown receptions. Doug Baldwin was the odd man out of the scoring bonanza last week, but remains one of Wilson's favorite targets and has a strong matchup, as Washington has allowed nearly 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns to slot receivers in 2017. Tight ends have destroyed Washington all season long, and Jimmy Graham is next in line. They've allowed five top-10 tight ends through seven games. The Washington offense can move the ball and put up points, but with their line so banged up protecting Kirk Cousins is a bit of an issue. He's been sacked eight times in the last two games and has thrown an interception in three straight, so there will be opportunities for the Seahawks defense to produce.

Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Alex Smith, QB: START
 » Kareem Hunt, RB: START
 » Tyreek Hill, WR: START
 » Demarcus Robinson, WR: DEEP FLEX
 » Travis Kelce, TE: START
 » Chiefs D/ST: SIT

Alex Smith played well against the dominant Denver defense last week, but just didn't accumulate the stats to have his fantasy score (13.38) reflect that. He's a great start this week against a Dallas secondary that had allowed multiple touchdown passes to four straight passers before running into C.J. Beathard and Kirk Cousins (in a rain-soaked, run-heavy game). There's honestly no reason to panic with Kareem Hunt, folks. He struggled against the league's top run defense last week, but his opportunities remain high. He's sixth in the NFL among running backs in total opportunities (targets + touches) and he leads all backs in total yards per game. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill remain must-starts, as they own 22.7 and 21.2 percent of the team targets, respectively. Those in dire straights for a wideout could look to Demarcus Robinson. His volume is a bit unpredictable (target totals of one, eight, and five over the last three), but this game could turn into a total shootout which gives him some upside. Fantasy defenses score on average a measly 4.57 fantasy points per game against the Cowboys. Stream the position and leave the Chiefs on the bench.

 » Dak Prescott, QB: START
 » Ezekiel Elliott, RB: START
 » Dez Bryant, WR: START
 » Jason Witten, TE: START
 » Cowboys D/ST: SIT

UPDATE: On Friday Ezekiel Elliott was granted an administrative stay in his never-ending legal battle, allowing him to play Sunday. We'll have more on his status for the rest of the season next week, but for now, start him while you can. The Chiefs are allowing 273.1 yards per game with 14 passing touchdowns on the year, so Dak Prescott should be able to have some success throwing against them. Dez Bryant should return to his target-hog ways after a disappointing six looks came his way last week. He also plays most of his snaps at left wide receiver, which will allow him to avoid Marcus Peters. The only other pass-catcher I'd feel comfortable trusting is Jason Witten. He's had 50-plus yards in two of his last three games, and has had three games with nine-plus targets this year. The remaining passing targets have been split up erratically between Cole Beasley, Brice Butler and Terrance Williams. The Cowboys defense delivered a fantastic performance last week, but I wouldn't go back to the well with the Chiefs set to come to town.

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC

 » Derek Carr, QB: START
 » Raiders RBs: SIT
 » Amari Cooper, WR: START
 » Michael Crabtree, WR: START
 » Jared Cook, TE: STREAM
 » Raiders D/ST: SIT

Derek Carr rather predictably struggled last week on a cross-country trip for an early game, but should fare better this week. The Miami secondary currently allows the highest completion percentage in the league (71.1), and have conceded nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. Carr is once again traveling to the East coast, but for a night game and should be a high-end starter this week. Marshawn Lynch's return from suspension once again muddies this backfield's fantasy outlook. Lynch was a part-time player before the suspension, and likely will be once again. The strength of the Miami defense is its run defense (4.1 yards per carry, 91.4 rushing yards per game allowed to backs), which doesn't bode well for the committee of Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. All of the pass-catchers are in play as well, as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will be in a prime bounce-back spot. The Miami secondary's stats against wide receivers are deceiving, as teams haven't had to air it out against them. However, with the run game in Oakland stalling, Carr, Cooper and Crabtree should be able to make hay. Jared Cook is also in the mix, as the Dolphins have allowed a 6.8 touchdown rate to the position that ranks in the bottom 12 in the league. The Raiders defense has basically been a non-factor, with 0 or negative points in three of their last four games. I'd look elsewhere, especially since Oakland is on the road.

 » Jay Cutler, QB: SIT
 » Dolphins RBs: START
 » DeVante Parker, WR: START
 » Jarvis Landry, WR: START
 » Kenny Stills, WR: SIT
 » Dolphins D/ST: SIT

Look, Jay Cutler is coming back into a great matchup and should have DeVante Parker (ankle) back as well, but we've been down this road before. I wouldn't stream Cutler unless there are absolutely no other viable options available. Head coach Adam Gase has indicated that the Dolphins will deploy a backfield committee after shipping Jay Ajayi to Philly. My preferred option here is Kenyan Drake, as he was selected by Gase in the third round of last year's draft and has big-play upside as we saw during his time at Alabama. Damien Williams was a red-zone factor last year, though, with all six of his touchdowns coming from inside an opponent's 20-yard line. Prior to his injury, Parker had received 25.7 percent of the team targets, with 69-plus yards in each contest. He'll be a solid start, as will Jarvis Landry, though his ceiling is obviously lowered. He averaged just 5.7 air yards per target with Parker in the lineup vs. 7.75 in the games since his injuries. Unfortunately, the returns of Cutler and Parker likely push Kenny Stills back into a hyper-volatile role. He only saw 18 targets during those first three games, catching nine passes for 101 yards and a score. This could be the type of game where Stills gets going, but I'd err on the side of caution here as Cutler tends to get tunnel vision.

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

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