As we head into Week 9 of the 2016 NFL season, here are 12 players to give extra consideration to when filling out your lineups – six that are looking better than usual, and a half dozen that are looking worse:
(Note: New England, Cincinnati, Arizona, Houston, Washington and Chicago are on bye in Week 9)
QB – Colin Kaepernick, SF ($29) – I know you’re making the Mr. Yuck sticker face, but the fact is that Kaepernick has been the No. 15 fantasy QB in each of the two weeks that he’s started this season (Weeks 6-7). And this week he faces a New Orleans defense allowing 30.7 points per game, most by any team other than the 49ers. So what you have in this contest is a battle of the two worst defenses in the league. It’s a ripe environment for Kaepernick, who is averaging 75 rushing yards in his two starts. Owners of a QB on the bye (Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Kirk Cousins) could do much worse than the 49ers’ maligned signal caller for a Week 9 fill-in.
RB – Tim Hightower, NO ($14) – Mark Ingram’s loss (lost fumble, that is) became Hightower’s gain in Week 8, as the veteran ascended to the lead role in New Orleans’ backfield after Ingram’s ball security lapse and handled 26 carries (for 102 yards) in an upset of the Seahawks. The two backs are now expected to form a somewhat equitable platoon this week against San Francisco, the worst fantasy run defense by a fairly healthy margin. The 49ers have allowed double digit fantasy points to the past seven running backs that have handled the pigskin 10-plus times against them. And San Fran has allowed two running backs at least 12 fantasy points in each of its past two contests, making it easy to argue for employing both Saints backs this week.
RB – Charcandrick West, KC ($19) – Kansas City has long been a plug-n-play backfield, meaning you can count on at least serviceable production from whoever is the lead back at the moment. Last season, after Jamaal Charles went down with an ACL injury, it was West that first stepped up to fill his cleats, delivering the seventh-best fantasy RB point per game average from Weeks 7 through fantasy championship Week 16. With Spencer Ware out with a concussion this week, West is back in the backfield spotlight against Jacksonville. I have West as a top 12 RB play against the Jaguars middle -of-the-pack fantasy run defense.
WR – Sammie Coates, Pit ($19) – Coates started off his NFL career with top 15 fantasy production at the WR position through his first five games. Then he suffered a lacerated hand, and the loss of his QB, Ben Roethliberger, to a meniscus injury, and his production predictably nosedived in his past two contests. But a bye week has brought healing, both to his hand and his QB. With Roethlisberger back and Coates no longer needing extra protection for his hand, Coates is sitting pretty once again as he prepares to face a Baltimore defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to the WR position.
WR – Donte Moncrief, Ind ($16) – Moncrief is gaining attention once again in Yahoo leagues, where he’s among the top 25 most started wideouts heading into Week 9. But he’s not getting the same respect in DFS, where he sits as the 42nd-highest priced WR target for the week. After returning last week (from a shoulder injury) to account for 40 yards and a TD (while also scoring another TD that was called back by penalty), Moncrief is poised for another impactful performance, as Indy’s top aerial TD weapon, against a Green Bay defense that has allowed the fourth-most TD receptions per game to the WR position.
TE – Antonio Gates, SD ($17) – Gates found the end zone last week, the third time he has done so in his past five games. This week, he’ll have a good shot to make a return trip to the painted grass as rookie TE Hunter Henry is expected to miss the game against Tennessee with a knee injury. Also dealing with sore knees are San Diego wideouts Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams, both questionable. Given the poor health of QB Philip Rivers’ receiving options, Gates figures to be heavily targeted against a Titans’ defense that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
QB – Derek Carr, Oak ($30) – After throwing for 513 yards and 4 touchdowns last week, Carr is sitting as one of the top 10 most started QBs this week in Yahoo leagues. But his monster performance came against a Tampa Bay defense allowing a QB Rating of 103.5, second-highest in the league, and nearly 39 points higher than Denver (65.7), the best defense in the league in the QBR category. And Carr has little to hang his hat on in his four career meetings with the “No-Fly Zone” defense, averaging 183.5 passing yards and a 21.75 ranking at the QB position in those contests.
RB – Todd Gurley, LAR ($24) – Gurley remains one of the most supremely talented running backs in the game. That disclaimer out of the way, it’s time we talk seriously about the reality of his situation. Among RBs with at least four games under their belt, Gurley ranks 24th in fantasy PPG. And among backs with at least 50 carries to this point, Gurley’s 3.0 YPC mark ranks 38th. This week, he faces a Carolina defense that has allowed the fewest yards per carry to the RB position (3.35), yielding an average of just 41.5 rushing yards to the likes of David Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman and Mark Ingram. The Panthers have also allowed just one RB touchdown in their past six games.
RB – Christine Michael, Sea ($26) – Michael’s stranglehold on the featured backfield role in Seattle is starting to loosen. Head coach Pete Carroll is talking up rookie RB C.J. Prosise, while also pining for the return of a fully healthy Thomas Rawls in another week or two. Carroll has already stated that Prosise will continue to amp up his role this week, likely meaning he’ll be utilized as more than just a passing-down option. Don’t be surprised if you see an almost even distribution of the backfield workload against the Bills on Monday night, and any downsizing of Michael’s role is problematic for his owners as Michael has rushed for more than 66 yards just once this season. If you’re a Michael owner, now is the time to shop him.
WR – Marvin Jones, Det ($24) – While Jones has been a top 10 fantasy wideout to this point of the season, he ranks outside the top 40 at the position in fantasy PPG (min. 3 games) over the past five weeks. In those five games, Jones has averaged just 6 targets, 3.6 catches and 49.6 receiving yards. A nagging foot injury deserves some of the blame, and that’s allowed other options (like Golden Tate) to step up into a larger role. But on the road against a Minnesota defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy PPG to the WR position, you don’t want to be entertaining Jones, or any other of the Lions’ aerial options.
WR – Allen Robinson, Jac ($25) – The A-Rob loyalists are holding strong, as the Jags’ wideout ranks as the 12th-most started WR in Yahoo leagues this week. I get it, the guy is beyond talented, leads all receivers in red zone targets, and plays for a team that ranks third in pass attempts per game. Unfortunately, among the top 50 most targeted receivers this season, Robinson ranks 49th in percentage of completions on those targets – and with only two drops, we can further confirm that QB Blake Bortles’ awful play deserves most of the blame. Robinson hasn’t tallied more than 72 yards in any game this season, and hasn’t scored in his past three contests. On the road in KC, one of the toughest venues in the NFL, this week, it’s hard to conjure much optimism for Robinson.
TE – Travis Kelce, KC ($19) – Kelce broke out of his slump in a big way last week, rolling for 101 yards and a TD against Indianapolis. Unfortunately, all but five yards of that production came in the first half with QB Alex Smith behind center. When backup QB Nick Foles entered the game (for the concussed Smith) in the third quarter, Kelce became mostly invisible. With Foles expected to start this week against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy PPG to the TE position (no TE over 7.5 fantasy points), don’t be surprised to see Kelce revert back to his average numbers over the two games before his Week 8 breakout (2.5 catches, 28.0 YPG, 0 TDs).