Fantasy owners need to be prepared for the bye weeks. There are four teams on a bye this week and six next week. This is getting to be the time of year where fantasy owners really need wins and points. Often, leagues come down to total points scored in order to determine tie-breakers for the playoffs. Obviously the goal is to get as many points as possible from your starters (that means not keeping Tevin Coleman and his four touchdowns on your bench in Week 8, ahh, hindsight). While it’s impossible to predict who is going to have a monster game, by now, fantasy owners can look at matchup and historical data to help put together their starting lineups.
Please note 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, but rather a guide.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans
Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets
It's tempting to keep Darnold out of the QB2 discussion for Week 9. He’s had two difficult matchups in the past two weeks, but he's also looked awful. Darnold gave fantasy owners negative points in Week 7 against the Patriots. In Week 8 vs. the Jaguars, he had 218 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Darnold is due for a better outing and it just may come this week against Miami. Darnold is ranked No. 21 but he is a solid QB2.
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
With Brandon Allen at quarterback, look for the Broncos to lean heavily on their running game. Both Freeman and Phillip Lindsay are a little banged up, but both are expected to play. In the past two weeks, Freeman has 75 total yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Lindsay (ranked No. 19, compared to Freeman's No. 17) has 95 yards on 26 carries, but no touchdowns. Both have some targets in the passing game, but because of the touchdowns, Freeman has a better shot of more fantasy points.
Mark Walton, RB, Miami Dolphins
Walton is ranked No. 32 for Week 9, but he could sneak into RB3 territory. He is the No. 1 running back in Miami now that Kenyan Drake is gone. Even though Drake didn't play in Week 8, Walton only had 11 carries for 35 yards. He has an easier matchup this week against the New York Jets. It also is possible that the Dolphins stay in this game, and therefore don't need to throw the ball as often. Walton may be able to have more of a role in Week 9.
Zach Pascal, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Pascal is ranked No. 54, but T.Y. Hilton just missed practice on Thursday. He has a calf injury, and it his status for Week 9 is muddy. If Hilton is out, Pascal's outlook is much higher. As it is, it seems that Hilton will not be 100 percent and it's possible he will be limited. Pascal had six receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7, but he barely made the box score in Week 8 (one reception for six yards). It’s a tough matchup, but if Hilton is out or limited, Pascal is a WR3/4.
Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets
Herndon is not included on the tight end rankings (so, outside the top 27), but it does seem that he will finally play this week. He started the year suspended, and then he injured his hamstring. He's been able to practice, so it looks like he will see the field this week. Ryan Griffin scored two touchdowns in Week 8, so the Jets do want to use the tight end position. Griffin may cut into Herndon’s value, but Griffin is a better blocking tight end. If Herndon is active, he's a TE2.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens play the Patriots on Sunday night. The Patriots' defense has been nothing short of amazing this season. They have only allowed three quarterbacks to score a touchdown all season. Two of those were through the air; one was on the ground. No quarterback has had more than 200 passing yards since Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1. While the Patriots arguably have played a pretty easy schedule, this will be a good test. Jackson struggled in Seattle; if it wasn't for his running ability, it would have been a pretty brutal day. Tough matchups are a challenge for him, and it will be difficult for him to reach his No. 7 ranking.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
The Baltimore run defense has been good, but the Ravens have been particularly good against pass-catching running backs. Enter Michel in Week 9. The Patriots should get Rex Burkhead back in more of a role than the limited one he played in Week 8. James White is usually the passing downs back and Michel handles the majority of the carries. The Ravens shut down Chris Carson last week, and the Patriots will likely look to Julian Edelman more this game. Michel is ranked No. 12, but is more of a low RB2.
Kenny Stills, WR, Houston Texans
It seemed that Stills would have a bigger role with Will Fuller out, but that hasn't happened. He had three receptions for 22 yards in Week 8 while DeAndre Hopkins and Darren Fells had big games. It seems that Fells, not Stills, is the one that has stepped up in Fuller's absence. Stills is ranked No. 26, but he's more of a low WR3 for Week 9.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
It’s going to be hard to trust Sutton with Brandon Allen at quarterback. Joe Flacco kept looking for tight end Noah Fant, and odds are that Allen will do the same. Sutton has the big-play ability, but he needs to be able to get the ball. It is possible that he can break away as the Browns will be stacking the box, forcing Allen to throw. However, Sutton is ranked No. 20, which would put him as a WR2. He should be considered a WR3 this week.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
With Lamar Jackson as a down, it only makes sense that some of his pass catchers are also going to have sub-par days as well. Andrews is one of Jackson's favorite targets, although he has struggled with drops in the past few games. He's the No. 3 tight end for this week, although that seems a bit high. Andrews is still a TE1, even in a tough matchup against the Patriots, but odds are that he doesn’t won't be in the top 3. The Patriots allow the fewest fantasy points to tight ends, although they did allow their first touchdown to one in Week 8.
Full Disclosure from Week 8
5 Up (3/5 correct)
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans (Ranked: 16, Actual: 10)
J.D. McKissic, RB, Lions (Ranked: 44, Actual: Not in top 50)
Golden Tate, WR, Giants (Ranked: 33, Actual: 27)
Kenny Stills, WR, Texans (Ranked: 30, Actual: Not in top 50)
Josh Hill, TE, Saints, (Ranked: 25, Actual: 16)
5 Down (4/5 correct)
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals (Ranked: 7, Actual: 25)
Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers (Ranked: 36, Actual: 37)
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns (Ranked: 8, Actual: 21)
Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs (Ranked: 44, Actual: 17)
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles (Ranked: 8, Actual: 25)
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.