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Week 9 Start and Sit Recommendations for Fantasy Football

As I write this, it is 32 degrees outside and there is frost on the cars. I cannot stand cold weather, but the upside is that it means we are quickly heading down the stretch of the fantasy football season. I won a league a couple of years ago where I started 2-6, so there is still time to make that playoff push. Keep grinding and take each week as it comes. It is with that mindset that I bring to you my Week 9 start and sit recommendations. I can admit I had a bad week last week, but it’s time to turn the page and move forward. Here are my recommendations on how to treat some of the borderline players on your rosters this week.

More fantasy football fun for Week 9: Waiver Wire | FAAB Guide | Start & Sit | Loves & Hates | Stock Watch | Sleepers & Streamers | D/ST Streamers

Week 9 Start and Sit Recommendations

Quarterback to Start

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins v. Houston Texans

For a minute there, it looked like Tua Tagovailoa might be facing the Miami Dolphins in Week 9. Instead, last year’s first-round pick will remain a Dolphin for now, as the team failed to broker a deal for Deshaun Watson. Tagovailoa will have an excellent chance on Sunday to prove to both Miami and Houston that he is a potential franchise quarterback. For fantasy purposes, Tagovailoa has been great since missing nearly a month. In three games since his return, he is the overall QB6. Several signal-callers have had bye weeks in that span, but Tagovailoa is still the QB7 on a points-per-game basis. I would not be surprised to see him land in a similar range this week. I currently have him at QB9.

Volume has been the primary factor in Tua’s recent success. Miami has attempted the fourth-most passes per game in the NFL this season. That is good news because the Texans allow the third-most yards per pass attempt in the league. They have also given up four rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks this year. Tagovailoa is not considered a running threat per se, but he does have five rushing scores in 15 career games. The Dolphins quarterback is a bit banged up, as he is currently dealing with injuries to his finger and ribs. But it sounds like he is on track to play in a game that should provide multiple avenues to a top-12 fantasy finish. He may not outscore the GOAT Josh Johnson this week, but Tua Tagovailoa makes for a solid Week 9 start.

Quarterback to Sit

Daniel Jones, New York Giants v. Las Vegas Raiders

Daniel Jones has not eclipsed 250 total yards in any of his past three starts. To be fair, he hasn’t had a ton of help from a health standpoint. Most of New York’s skill-position players have been hurt to varying degrees over the past month. But that will not change this week, as the Giants are limping towards their upcoming Week 10 bye. Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard will miss this week’s game, and the team recently place fill-in wide receiver Dante Pettis on injured reserve. It would be hard to recommend starting Jones even in a favorable matchup given the injuries surrounding him. Jones managed to squeeze out a QB13 finish last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Facing the Chiefs has been one of the league’s easiest matchups for quarterbacks this season. This week’s matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders should be much more difficult.

The Raiders have allowed three fewer pass attempts than Kansas City has this year. And they have given up 561 fewer passing yards than the Chiefs. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging just 6.34 yards per attempt against Vegas this season. That is the third-lowest mark in the NFL. The biggest reason is that their cornerbacks have played outstanding football. Outside corner Casey Hayward and slot man Nate Hobbs have the two highest coverage grades among cornerbacks who have been on the field for at least 150 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Brandon Facyson has done a solid job filling in for the injured Trayvon Mullen, and there is a chance Mullen returns from IR this week. Mullen ranks 21st in PFF’s coverage grade. There just isn’t a whole lot to like about the prospects of the Giants’ passing game in this matchup. I recommend sitting Daniel Jones in Week 9.

Running Back to Start

Jeremy McNichols, Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams

The Tennessee Titans will reluctantly sport their new look backfield in Week 9 after losing Derrick Henry to a foot injury. Tennessee signed Adrian Peterson to help fill the void. It is expected that Peterson will carry the ball on early downs and that Jeremy McNichols’ role in the offense would remain largely unchanged. Even if that is the case, I would probably like McNichols more than most this week.

Tennessee averages over 30 rushing plays per game. Granted, their offense is going to behave differently with Henry gone. But I do not expect them to do a complete 180 and give up on the ground game. I think it’s fair to assume that McNichols will surpass his current season-high of two carries is in this game. Peterson is a specimen like few others we have seen, but I can’t imagine him coming off the street at 36 years old and getting 20-25 carries off the bat. More on that in a second. I expect that McNichols will benefit from what should be a negative game script. The Titans are seven-point underdogs in this game. In Tennessee’s two losses this season, McNichols has averaged 8.65 fantasy points in half-PPR scoring. In their six wins, he has averaged 3.88 fantasy points per game.  

I also think there’s a distinct possibility that McNichols gets a bigger share of the workload than we are all expecting. He has not been given a chance to be a lead back in the NFL, but he was a workhorse in college. Over his last two years at Boise State, he averaged over 25 touches per game. And all he did in those 25 games was surpass 4,000 all-purpose yards and score 53 touchdowns. Yes, this was against infinitely inferior competition than he will face Sunday, but there is some pedigree there. McNichols had the 91st percentile College Dominator rating per Player Profiler. He also has a similar build to and almost identical combine results as Lions running back D’Andre Swift, who gashed this same Rams defense for an overall RB2 finish two weeks ago.  

None of this is to suggest that McNichols is destined to finish in the top five this week. But I do think an RB2 finish in 12-team leagues is well within his grasp. The Expert Consensus Rankings have both McNichols and Peterson ranked in the RB3 range this week. While I expect both to get between 10-15 touches, I think there will be a much wider split for the Titans’ running backs from a fantasy perspective. I currently have Jeremy McNichols at RB20 (though I may drop him a spot or two on Sunday) and Adrian Peterson outside my top-40. I will spare you the suspense of including Peterson in my Week 9 sits. But suffice to say that I need to see him have a good game before I would trust him in my lineups.

Running Back to Sit

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers

Khalil Herbert posted his fourth straight game with at least 70 rushing yards last week. But he was much less efficient, averaging just 3.13 yards per carry after averaging 4.95 over the previous three contests. It was not all his fault, as there were several 49ers defenders in the backfield waiting to greet Herbert upon touching the ball. Still, this week’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers does not figure to be one where the sixth-round pick regains his prior form. Opponents simply do not get many prime opportunities against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has faced an average of four carries per game inside their five-yard line. Buffalo is the only team to match them in that regard. As a result, the Steelers have allowed just two total touchdowns to opposing running backs this year. The Arizona Cardinals are the only other NFL team who can make that claim.

There is also a very real possibility that David Montgomery makes his return to the active roster this week. I initially suspected that Chicago would rest him through their Week 10 bye, but it appears as if they are going to give him a chance to play. With this being a Monday night game, it gives him an extra day to prepare. It also puts fantasy managers in a bit of a bind. If you are relying on Herbert to get another 20-25 opportunities, you may want to rethink that strategy. I would still expect Herbert to get more run than Montgomery even if the latter is activated. However, Herbert would likely see a reduced role in that scenario. That wouldn’t be so bad if the matchup was right, but that is not the case this week. I would be very wary of starting Khalil Herbert given the circumstances.

Check out our Week 9 Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Kicker | D/ST | PPR | Flex

Wide Receivers to Start

Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders at New York Giants

I mentioned Renfrow in our weekly Bold Predictions piece, so I would encourage you to read that to understand my rationale as to why I am so high on him this week. My stance has not changed since then. In fact, I am probably more on him now than I was earlier in the week. The consensus does have Hunter Renfrow as a top-36 wideout, and thus a presumed fantasy starter. But I think they are selling him way short as this week’s WR32. I believe that he, Jaylen Waddle, and Cole Beasley are interchangeable this week. They all have similar roles and favorable matchups. However, the consensus has Renfrow several spots lower than the others. Renfrow is also cheaper than the others on DFS sites. I feel this is a mistake, and I could easily see the Raiders slot receiver posting a top-20 week.

I think Bryan Edwards is a much more volatile fantasy receiver than Renfrow, but he may pay off nicely as well this week. Edwards leads the Raiders’ receiver group in offensive snaps, but that has not translated to much fantasy production. He is just third in targets, receptions, and yards behind Renfrow and the recently released Henry Ruggs. Now that Ruggs is gone, Edwards will have to step up. The two have similar usage metrics this season. (Stats per FTN Fantasy)

Ruggs – 36 targets (29 as the first read), 16.23 aDOT (average depth of target)
Edwards – 30 targets (22 as the first read), 15.02 aDOT

The only other Raiders receiver with an aDOT even remotely close to Ruggs and Edwards is Zay Jones, who has been targeted just seven times this season. Jones may see a few additional looks going forward, but Edwards will be the one primarily tasked with stretching opposing defenses. The second-year pro has the physical tools to get the job done but will need to exhibit more consistency than he has through his first 19 NFL games. Edwards is shaping up as a boom-or-bust WR4 this week, albeit one who should have an expanded role compared to how the Raiders have used him thus far this season.

Wide Receivers to Bench

Devonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles v. Los Angeles Chargers

Devonta Smith has disappointed fantasy managers in recent weeks. The rookie wideout has a total of just eight receptions for 107 scoreless yards over his last three games. Smith still leads the team with 33 receptions and 421 yards, but that has not led to much fantasy production. He enters Week 9 as the overall WR42 in half-PPR leagues. Philadelphia’s passing game, in general, is just very difficult to trust at the moment. The Eagles average just 216.4 yards per game through the air this season. Only five NFL teams have produced a lower number. I find it difficult to project much more than that this week when Philadelphia hosts the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers boast one of the league’s best pass defenses. They allow the fifth-fewest passing yards per game in the NFL. As a result, fantasy points have been difficult to come by for Chargers’ opponents. They allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and are tops at limiting wide receiver fantasy production. Their cornerbacks have not allowed receivers to get behind the defense. The Buffalo Bills are the only NFL team to allow fewer touchdown receptions (2) than the Chargers have (4) this year. Smith hasn’t scored himself since Week 1, so I am not seeing a ton of upside here. He could be a serviceable PRR Flex play depending on your other options. But I would not go out of my way to make sure I had him active this week.

Kadarius Toney, New York Giants v. Las Vegas Raiders

The New York Giants removed rookie receiver Kadarius Toney from the injury report on Friday. He should be in line for a full complement of snaps and targets on Sunday. However, as I mentioned earlier when discussing quarterback Daniel Jones, I just do not see the draw with this particular matchup. Toney has lined up in the slot on 54 percent of snaps so far this year. With Sterling Shepard out and Kenny Golladay possibly returning, this is where I would expect Toney to see most of his action. That means coverage from slot cornerback Nate Hobbs. Hobbs has the second-highest PFF coverage grade among cornerbacks, and his 0.15 fantasy points per route allowed are fourth-best among corners who have covered at least 200 routes.  

I will offer the following disclaimer. You may find yourself in a position where you are already chasing points in a head-to-head matchup. If your opponent has Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, or Elijah Moore (or some combination thereof) in his or her lineup this week, you are already behind the eight-ball. You might need to swing for the fences rather than trying to string together a bunch of singles. To that point, we have seen Toney put up a monster outing just three weeks ago. He finished Week 5 as the overall WR7 without even scoring a touchdown. So while I would personally recommend sitting Kadarius Toney this week, I realize all situations are not the same. I just think most people make the mistake of viewing this as a favorable matchup, which is a take I strongly disagree with.

Tight Ends to Start

Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers v. Philadelphia Eagles

Jared Cook should only be viewed as a matchup play for fantasy purposes. The veteran tight end has failed to hit 30 receiving yards in five of his last six games. However, I think this could be a bit of a get-right spot for him. The Philadelphia Eagles allow the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. They have also surrendered a league-high 56 receptions and six touchdowns to the position. Cook should have a distinct advantage against the coverage of Alex Singleton. Among linebackers who have faced at least 200 tight end routes, Singleton ranks dead last in targets per route run (19 percent), fantasy points per route run (0.46), catch rate (93 percent), and yards per coverage route (1.71). This may be Cook’s last chance to prove he can still be fantasy-relevant.

Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars v. Buffalo Bills

I listed Dan Arnold here last week, and he was probably the only player who made me look halfway competent. That is not the sole reason I list him here again in Week 9. Arnold has led the Jacksonville Jaguars in receiving twice in the last three games. That is no small feat for a player who was not even on the team six weeks ago. He is tied for eighth among tight ends in receptions over the last four weeks, which is more impressive when you consider Jacksonville’s bye week falls within that timeframe. Urban Meyer sees something in Arnold and is not afraid to use him. Arnold has proven to be a reliable safety blanket for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and I would expect that symbiotic relationship to continue this week against the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills are not exactly a defense we are looking to aggressively seek out with skill players. They rank first in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing running backs and second against wide receivers. Against tight ends, they are slightly more vulnerable, but still a very solid eighth in the NFL. No matter how you slice it, you should try to avoid this defense whenever possible. Having said that, Arnold is much more involved than your standard tight end. He is not matchup-proof, but his floor is generally higher than most fringe TE1s. Arnold should also benefit from a negative game script and could see additional run if running back James Robinson is limited. With T.J. Hockenson and Rob Gronkowski off this week, and players like Dawson Knox and Noah Fant not expected to play this week, Dan Arnold may very well post his second straight top-ten fantasy finish.  

Tight End to Sit

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers v. Chicago Bears

Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth has been targeted seven times in each of Pittsburgh’s last two games. That is generally a good sign for his future outlook, but I would caution against expecting too much this week. Pittsburgh will face the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Chicago has allowed just one tight end touchdown so far in 2021. They are the second-best defense against tight ends in terms of completion percentage allowed (55.6), yards per target (5.0), and total receiving yards (225). There is also the chance that veteran tight end Eric Ebron returns after missing last week’s game. I believe Freiermuth has done enough with his recent opportunities for Pittsburgh to trust him over Ebron going forward, but I would not look to chase last week’s fantasy points in this matchup.

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