Your guide to Week Nine Start ’ems and Sit ’ems
RotoExperts.com Special for the Associated Press
Officially at the halfway point of the season, Fantasy owners should know who to trust on a weekly basis. At this point, draft slot is meaningless: either players are producing or they’re not.
The halfway point also signals that there are some players who have been on the outer edge of a Fantasy breakthrough. A handful of talents that have flown under the radar or, in some cases, beneficiaries of the trade deadline, will use Week Nine as the jumping off point. New chapters are set to be written by playmaking authors.
START: Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings: By now, trusting in Dalvin Cook is a fool’s errand. The Minnesota ground game hasn’t wept, as Murray has scored four touchdowns in the last three games and faces a Lions run defense that is 26th in Fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs. Cook may play but will be limited, whereas Murray makes for a solid RB2 who also happens to average 5.1 yards per carry in his home confines.
SIT: Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers: The Seahawks are downright selfish when it comes to defending the pass, not only ranking first in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, but Seattle is also third in fewest receiving yards allowed. It’s certainly a tough call to sit Rivers, who has thrown multiple touchdowns in each game this season, yet the Chargers are on the road and there are better matchups to exploit rather that rolling the dice on Rivers defying Fantasy logic with a great afternoon in Seattle.
START: Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos: Demaryius Thomas’ departure to the Texans sets up the path for Sutton to become Denver’s WR1. Sutton has yet to be targeted more than six times in a game, but expect the big rookie to hit double digits for the first time this week. Houston does come into the Mile High City with a five-game win streak, but a suspect pass defense that is 19th in yards allowed and has given up 15 touchdowns. Sutton has just 17 catches, but eight have been for better than 20 yards. He’s a great Flex option whose upside will push him into must-start territory soon.
SIT: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets: In the three games since rushing for 219 yards against the Broncos, Crowell has managed only 94 yards on 37 carries, averaging 2.54 yards per attempt. Facing the Dolphins, who own the league’s worst run defense, should be the type of game that perks up Crowell, yet there’s little reason to believe he’ll snap out of his funk. Plus, the rise of Trenton Cannon is starting to close the window opened for Crowell upon the loss of Bilal Powell.
START: O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers: In the first three games Ryan Fitzpatrick started this season, Howard averaged 20.1 yards per catch while catching 11 of 14 targets. Howard has a chance to put up a huge afternoon as he will feast on a Panthers defense that is last in Fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends. Contending with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson is more than a handful as is, but the thought of Howard getting favorable matchups and utilizing his speed is why he should be a strong TE1.
SIT: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: The addition of Amari Cooper will help bolster a Dallas passing game that is 29th in yardage. This is good news for Prescott, who has used his running skills to put together his two best Fantasy outings in consecutive weeks. The good times may come to a halt on Monday night in the form of a Titans run defense that is tied for third with only three rushing touchdowns allowed. Expecting Cooper to make an immediate impact is too much to ask, and with the Titans determined to contain both Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott on the ground, it may also be too much to expect him to carry a Fantasy team strictly on his arm.
START: Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers: Few receivers put up solid numbers on the Ravens defense, so Funchess and his three receptions for 27 yards last week can be forgiven. Fate shines brightly on him this week, as Funchess deals with a Buccaneers defense that is 30th in passing yards allowed and has given up a league-worst 20 touchdown passes. Funchess has yet to hit the 100-yard mark this season, yet Tampa Bay’s secondary presents a fantastic example of the phrase “there’s a first time for everything.”
SIT: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: It’s hard to tell if McCoy’s decline is simply a case of a decade of usage finally catching up to him or if the Buffalo offense is that bad. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but that’s no reason for Fantasy players to wheel out McCoy against a Bears run defense that is third in yards allowed and remains the league’s only team to not allow a rushing touchdown. McCoy will get his share of touches, but bad touches become worse touches as the numbers climb.
START: Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: Coming off his worst outing of the season, Flacco gets a great rebound opportunity against a Steelers team that he carved up for 363 yards and two touchdowns in a Week Four victory. Pittsburgh is 16th in net passing yards allowed but have been victimized for 17 touchdowns, tying them for 27th. The Steelers have also given up 29 completions of 20 or more yards, which should translate well for owners of Flacco and receiver John Brown.
SIT: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Green Bay’s dependence on the pass—coupled with the continued timeshare with Jamaal Williams—makes Jones a risky play despite the potential of a Sunday night slugfest against the Patriots. Jones ran for 86 yards on just 12 carries in last week’s loss to the Rams and would be a high-end RB2 if Fantasy owners knew he would at least 18-20 touches.