We’ve made it to Week 9, just about the halfway point in the NFL’s new 17-game season. We have four teams on a bye, but it could be worse. Still, the significant injuries to studs like Derrick Henry and news like Michael Thomas being out for the season now might have put a wrinkle in your plans. You could be sitting there wondering how to fill those lineup holes and maximize scoring to make a run toward a title. If that’s the case, let this column be your guide! But before we get to the suggestions for Week 9, let’s look back at how I fared in Week 8.
For transparency purposes, we’ll measure quarterbacks and tight ends against Top 12 finishes (QB1 and TE1), and we’ll measure running backs and wide receivers against Top 24 finishes (RB1-2, WR1-2). All finishes come from Fantasy Pros PPR scoring leaders lists found here.
Week 8 Starts
QB: Daniel Jones, QB13 miss. This was agonizingly close. I thought Jones would be Top 12, and he just missed.
RB: Khalil Herbert, RB32 miss. Herbert got plenty of work, but it wasn’t enough.
WR: A.J. Brown, WR1 hit. I thought Brown would be good. He was and will continue to be.
TE: Kyle Pitts, TE35 miss. The Falcons’ offense fell apart, and Pitts got smothered.
Start Record: 1-3
Week 8 Sits
QB: Sam Darnold, QB 23 hit. I thought Darnold would be a QB2 at best, and he barely made it to that level.
RB: Mike Davis, RB26 hit. I didn’t trust Davis, but the Falcons tried to make me regret that. He fell just short in the end.
WR: Jerry Jeudy, WR56 hit. I didn’t think Jeudy would have a big day, and he didn’t. Not enough volume for the players in Denver.
TE: Evan Engram, TE9 miss. I hate it here… Engram got a TD, which was enough to be Top 12 at tight end.
Sit Record: 3-1
Start: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
About: I know the Raiders have been dealt some blows. First, there was the scandal that saw coach Jon Gruden resign. Now, receiver Henry Ruggs III was in a fatal accident, faces charges, and was released. Through it all, Carr has played strong, the Raiders have won games, and the team sits in first place in the AFC West. Will that change coming off a bye facing the Giants? I think not. Carr averages 19.52 points per game, and I think he gets into the Top 12 in Week 9. Hopefully, that means good things for Darren Waller and Bryan Edwards.
Sit: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
About: Just when it looked like Lawrence was figuring it out, the Jags’ offense has fallen apart. Pre-season the hope was Lawrence would be a fantasy force, using his skills to get the offense into high gear. It simply hasn’t happened. In Week 8, against the Seahawks, Lawrence completed less than 60 percent of his passes, amassing just 238 yards, a touchdown, and an interception despite 54 pass attempts. He’s not been much of a factor as a runner, either. Now, he gets a matchup with the stout Buffalo Bills. No thanks.
Start: Damien Harris, New England Patriots
About: Running back has been a tough position this year with a myriad of injuries and now bye weeks not helping fantasy players make decisions. I also know that no one feels great being forced to trust a Patriots running back. That being said, Damien Harris has been on fire of late and has been a rock-solid piece of an improving Patriots’ offense. He’s scored a touchdown in four straight games, going over 100 yards in two of his last three games. He’s RB16 on the season, and I think he’s a solid RB2 option for your lineup, despite being a Patriot.
Sit: David Johnson, Houston Texans
About: Remember WAY back to last week when Mark Ingram was traded, and it seemed to be wheels up for Johnson to be THE guy in the Texans’ backfield? I’m guessing quite a few folks started him last week hoping for RB2 production or at least Flex value. Instead, Johnson had two carries for four yards and a reception for a yard. Yay…. Anyhow, I think the Texans could be better this week with Tyrod Taylor back, but I don’t have any faith in their backfield usage.
Start: Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
About: The Pittsburgh offense hasn’t been incredible, and it certainly appears as if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has lost a step. But with Juju Smith-Schuster lost for the season and Chase Claypool as more of a big-play option, Johnson remains the backbone of the Steelers’ passing game. Johnson has had a bye week and missed a game due to injury, but he’s averaging 18 points per game when he plays, tied for ninth-best among receivers. The matchup with the Bears doesn’t scare me, and I think the Steelers will get a home win to keep rolling toward a potential playoff berth. Johnson is a start for me.
Sit: DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
About: I love Smith’s talent and potential, and we’ve seen some bursts that showcase what he could be in the NFL. The problem is the Eagles’ pass offense. He currently sits as WR42, averaging just 10.1 points per game. In his eight games, he’s only scored one touchdown and only seen five or more receptions in half his games. I like the talent; I don’t trust the opportunity. He’s a borderline Flex at best.
Start: Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars
About: If you read the top part of this column, you know I’m not high on Lawrence as a passer this week. He hasn’t been consistent, and it’s not a great matchup. But they will throw the ball, and SOMEONE has to catch it. While Jamal Agnew has surprised at receiver, the Jaguars traded for Arnold a few weeks back, and his usage since demonstrates that it was with a plan in mind. Arnold saw two targets in his first game, despite only being on the team for a couple of days but has seen 23 targets in the three games since then. Last week he saw a season-high 10 targets, catching eight passes for 68 yards. While he hasn’t gotten a touchdown, Arnold’s volume indicates he’s a solid option at a volatile position.
Sit: Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
About: A theme when you’re making lineup decisions is volume and opportunity. I like Kmet’s talent, and we saw some signs that his role would expand at the end of last season. The problem is the Bears’ passing game isn’t reliable as Justin Fields adjusts to the NFL game and the Bears’ offense tries to find its identity. We’ve seen receiver Allen Robinson struggle, and Kmet hasn’t been immune, either. He’s TE28 on the season, averaging just 5.2 points per game. You have to have better options…
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.