Without Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller is no longer a WR2
With six teams on a bye this week (again), finding a solid starting lineup can be tough for fantasy owners as we get ready for Week 9. Add in injuries to a number of skill players and deciding who to play where is going to be a challenge. However, plenty of good matchups can be exploited. In addition, injuries to some players mean a clear path to playing time for others. This list takes all of that into account, as well as past performance.
At the end of the column is the full disclosure, listing how well last week's picks performed. Please note that 5 Up/5 Down is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. This is not a start/sit column, rather a guide.
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Given Winston's performance last week, it is hard to trust him as a QB1 this week. He is ranked No. 14, just outside QB1 territory, but he has a great matchup against the Saints. Winston was dealing with a shoulder injury and didn't even throw in practice until Friday last week. This week, however, he was able to throw in practice all week and even put in a full practice on Friday. He should bounce back on the road playing indoors against New Orleans.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
After turning 17 carries into 131 yards and a touchdown in Week 7 before the bye, Jones is a must-start running back this week. He's ranked No. 10 but he could easily exceed that. Brett Hundley isn't going to throw the ball for a win, so the Packers are going to have to rely on their running game. The team has been getting away from using Ty Montgomery, so it's the Aaron Jones show this week (Packers play Monday night) and for the rest of the season.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
While Peterson - and the entire Cardinals offense was a disappointment in Week 7 (before the bye), the team only gave him 11 carries and Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game. It's the Drew Stanton show in Arizona now, and similar to Green Bay, this offense is not going to rely on the quarterback. The Cardinals have said they are going to feed Peterson this week. He is ranked No. 13 but should exceed that ranking.
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
Even though (spoiler alert) Cam Newton is on the "5 Down" list, his No. 1 receiver is on the "5 Up" list. The reason being that there really is no one else to throw the ball to. Curtis Samuel and Russell Shepard are the other pass catchers on the team now that Kelvin Benjamin is with Buffalo. Funchess has been a boom-or-bust receiver, with three touchdowns and no 100-yard games, but this is his chance. He's ranked No. 30 but should exceed that.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
With Jordan Reed already ruled out, Davis will be the starting tight end for the Redskins. The matchup against the Seahawks, on paper, is a tough one. However, Earl Thomas has been ruled out, which helps both Kirk Cousins and Davis. Cousins looks for his tight end often. In Week 3 when Reed was out, Davis had five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. He is ranked No. 11, but should be a TE1 this week.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Aside for two weeks in the middle of the season, Newton has been a disappointment. He has thrown for less than 240 yards in the past three games. He has two touchdowns and six interceptions in that span. Newton faces Atlanta in Week 9, which isn't a terrible matchup, but it's just hard to trust him. He's now without Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen, leaving him Devin Funchess and two receivers who have yet to have more than two receptions in a game to throw to. Newton will get yards from Christian McCaffrey, but he should fall out of the top 10 this week.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
Despite having 15 carries for 78 yards in Week 8, Anderson has fallen out of fantasy favor. He's ranked No. 19 this week, but Devontae Booker is back and is taking work away from him. Jamaal Charles has always been in the picture, but now with Booker, Anderson's role drops even further. The Broncos face the Eagles in Week 9, who allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
The Denver Broncos give up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and that is who Jeffrey faces in Week 9. While Carson Wentz has been great lately, a lot of his points come from finding Zach Ertz, not Jeffrey. With Nelson Agholor still in the mix, Jeffrey is in for a rough outing in Week 9. He's ranked No. 19, but he easily can fall out of the top 20. In a week with six teams on a bye, he's still a WR3, just not the WR1 that fantasy owners have expected this year.
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson's season-ending injury obviously changes the outlook for any Texans pass catcher, and this may especially be the case for Fuller. As great as Fuller has been this season, he isn't going to get to his No. 18 ranking this week without Watson. Tom Savage will be under center, which drastically lowers Fuller's value. He's had 13 receptions this season and seven touchdowns in that span. Clearly, those numbers weren't sustainable for the season, but losing Watson will put an end to that streak.
Tyler Kroft, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
With Tyler Eifert out for the season, Kroft has stepped onto the fantasy radar. In the past four games, he's had at least four receptions. He's added three touchdowns in that span as well. However, in Week 9, he faces the Jacksonville Jaguars, which has a tough pass defense. They haven't allowed a tight end to have more than 61 yards, although they have allowed three touchdown catches to the position. Kroft is ranked No. 12, but he is a TE2.
Full Disclosure, Week 8:
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (Ranked: 15, Actual: 16)
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (Ranked: 11, Actual: 20)
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (Ranked: 19, Actual: 36)
Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (Ranked: 23, Actual: 51)
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts (Ranked: 13, Actual: 2)
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (Ranked: 9, Actual: 11)
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Ranked: 12, Actual: 25)
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Ranked: 6, Actual: 39)
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (Ranked: 27, Actual: 3)
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (Ranked: 7, Actual: 46)
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
(Top photo courtesy of www.houstontexans.com)