Just when fantasy owners (and football fans in general) were starting to enjoy the skills and playmaking ability of Deshaun Watson, Houston’s electric rookie quarterback tears his ACL during practice on Thursday and is now out for the rest of the season. Watson’s owners are left scrambling to find a replacement (and no, it's probably not Tom Savage), a task made harder by the fact six teams are on bye in Week 9.
So which quarterbacks and (defense/special teams) should you trust in Week 9?
Good Calls for Week 8...
Start Carson Wentz (17.14 fantasy points) – Wentz didn’t light up the 49ers like he could have, but he didn’t need to, and you’ll take 17 fantasy points every week if you can get it.
Bad Calls for Week 8...
Sit Deshaun Watson (32.78 FP) – When was the last time any QB went into Seattle and dominated a game like that? Too bad we won't get to see any more of the dynamic rookie.
Start Philip Rivers (10.48 FP) – Looks like the Patriots’ defense is finally back on track.
Teams on bye: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh
START THESE QBs...
Dak Prescott, DAL (vs. KC)
In a week with six teams on bye, Prescott is a top-flight QB1 coming back home to face a Chiefs defense traveling on a short week. Over the last five weeks, the Chiefs are 29th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and no team has surrendered more touchdowns through the air in that span. With Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension expected to start this week, look for the offense to lean more on Prescott.
Derek Carr, OAK (at MIA)
His broken back looks better every week, and even if he didn’t look phenomenal in Buffalo, he still threw for more than 300 yards and the week before that he put up more than 40 fantasy points. Now he plays Miami, a defense that has been allowing every opposing quarterback to look like a stud. Even Ryan Mallett (kind of). Best of all — the Dolphins only have two interceptions on the year.
Matthew Stafford, DET (at GB, Mon.)
How do you throw for 423 yards and not have a touchdown or a pick? Somehow, Stafford pulled this off last week against the Steelers. This week Stafford gets an injured Green Bay defense that he averaged 366 passing yards and totaled five touchdowns in two games last season. The Packers have no offense without Aaron Rodgers, so look for Stafford to strike early and often this week.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Drew Stanton, ARI (vs. SF)
If you are in desperate need of a streamer QB this week, Stanton is your best bet. The 49ers rank sixth from the bottom in quarterback rating, ninth-worst in passing yards allowed, and they don’t generate many turnovers, notching just five interceptions all year. The Cardinals are going to try and run the ball with Adrian Peterson, but other than one big game a couple weeks ago, he has pretty much struggled the last two years. Stanton has just enough upside this week to score 15-plus fantasy points.
SIT THESE QBs...
Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. BAL)
The Ravens are giving up the sixth-fewest passing yards to opposing QBs and are in the bottom third of passing TDs allowed. The Titans’ offense hasn’t been astonishingly great through the air, and Baltimore is making a habit out of shutting down offenses, so stay away from Mariota unless you really need a QB this week with the byes being so nasty.
Andy Dalton, CIN (at JAC)
Dalton was an easy start last week against the Colts and he was okay, tossing two touchdowns and finishing third in fantasy points among quarterbacks. This week he faces a Jaguars defense that has allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to QBs. Drew Stanton might be a better fantasy start this week.
Eli Manning, NYG (vs. LAR)
Manning is back from a bye week, and he should have Sterling Shepard back as well. Still, it's been tough to overcome the losses of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Manning also has a tough matchup against the Rams, who have allowed just eight touchdown passes in seven games.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Matt Ryan, ATL (at CAR)
Ryan ranks as the QB21 after eight weeks of play. The Atlanta offense is still trying to find an identity. It is definitely not last year’s offense as much as head coach Dan Quinn wants it to be. Week 9 sees the Falcons heading to Carolina to face the sixth-best fantasy defense against quarterbacks. Mohamed Sanu woke up last week and might provide a complementary receiver threat after Julio Jones, but the overall offense has to get in sync. Otherwise, it will be a long day for the quarterback and everyone else in Carolina.
START THESE DSTs...
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. DEN)
The Eagles’ defense was already excited about facing Denver’s weak offensive line and a young quarterback. Now there may be an immobile Brock Osweiler for them to get after in Week 9. Denver is not likely to find any answers to their offensive woes in the City of Brotherly Love. The only question is whether the Eagles can top the 20 fantasy points the Chiefs DST tallied against the Broncos Monday night.
New Orleans Saints (vs. TB)
You haven’t see the Saints DST as a “start” play too often in the last decade, but here we are. This unit is finally playing some strong football and gets to host the division rival Buccaneers this week. The Bucs are a shell of the team many predicted them to be, especially on the offense where they’ve been inconsistent and mostly just plain bad all year. This game is currently projected to be the highest-scoring one of the week, but I don’t see it, I think the Saints hold Tampa Bay in check all game.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Houston Texans (vs. IND)
What started on paper as one of the league’s strongest DSTs has slowly been eroded away and decimated by injuries as the season has worn on. This week the Texans play the Colts, a team that is usually a boon for DSTs. But after the Seahawks wore Houston out last week, I expect a small hangover this week as a result of all the wear and tear and personnel shuffles that have taken place.
Dallas Cowboys (vs. KC)
The Cowboys DST has been on fire over the last two weeks, scoring a combined 32 fantasy points in wins over the 49ers and Redskins. However, that's going to be a difficult pace to continue when Alex Smith and the Chiefs visit. Aside from the Steelers, no DST has finished higher than 17th against Kansas City.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.