Week 9 may represent the halfway point of the NFL season, but in fantasy football it’s where things really start to get interesting. For starters, the fantasy playoffs are creeping closer with every passing week, which means every game is critical. Add to this the fact that six teams are on bye in Weeks 9 and 10 and it’s shaping up to be one busy week of moves and maneuvers.
Roster depth and management skills will certainly be put to the test this week not only because of injuries but also due to the fact that guys like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Forté, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and many others are not available.
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee
Week 8 Recap: Carson Palmer threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s come-from-behind win against Philadelphia. Both of Palmer’s touchdown passes were 75 yards or longer, with the game-winner to John Brown coming with 1:21 left in the game. Palmer has appealing matchups (at Dallas, St. Louis) on tap for those who have bye-week issues to deal with.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has been mentioned in this space before, but with 12 teams on bye over the next two weeks, quarterback help may be a little harder to come by. While his numbers are down compared to last season, Dalton is still a top-20 fantasy QB in terms of points and he’s got pretty decent matchups the next two weeks – home against Jacksonville and Cleveland. Dalton also should get All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green back pretty soon, perhaps as early as this week. Remember, of the 19 QBs currently ahead of Dalton in fantasy points, eight of them will be going on bye in the next two weeks.
Michael Vick, New York Jets
Geno Smith was awful, to say the least, on Sunday against the Bills. Before getting pulled, Smith had more interceptions (three) than completions (two). Vick took over and while his numbers left much to be desired (18-of-36, 153 yards, INT, 49.9 passer rating), he led the team in rushing (69 yards on eight carries) and got the Jets to within a touchdown at halftime. Vick also lost two fumbles, but Rex Ryan has already named Vick as his starter for this week’s game in Kansas City. So with several sure-fire fantasy starting QBs (Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler) on bye, you have to at least consider Vick over some of the other fill-in options, right? For example, are you really going to rely on rookies Derek Carr (at SEA), Blake Bortles (at CIN) or even Teddy Bridgewater (vs. WAS)?
Other possible fill-in options*: Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill
Week 8 Recap: Denard Robinson posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game (16 att., 108 yds.), as one of the few bright spots for the Jaguars. Robinson fared considerably better than either Tre Mason (7 att., 32 yds.), Anthony Dixon (22 att., 44 yds.) or Bryce Brown (7 att., 15 yds.), who struggled to get anything going on Sunday.
Travaris Cadet and Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram (right) was highlighted in this space last week and that was before he gashed Green Bay for 172 yards (7.2 ypc) and a touchdown. If Ingram is still available, he should be added immediately. Cadet meanwhile could prove to be a sneaky pickup, as Pierre Thomas (shoulder) is out for at least another game or two and the short turnaround for Thursday’s game against Carolina doesn’t appear to benefit Khiry Robinson’s (foot) injury situation. Cadet got just one carry (7 yards) Sunday night, but he was targeted five times, finishing with four catches for 40 yards. With so many running backs on bye, Cadet could be an intriguing flex fill-in option, especially in PPR leagues.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Giovani Bernard left yesterday’s win over Baltimore with a hip injury. Bernard is pretty banged up right now so even if he doesn’t miss any time, he may see a decrease in his touches. To that end, Hill’s 10 carries Sunday were only the second time he had topped double digits this season (15 in Week 2). He’s averaging less than four yards per carry, but does have three rushing touchdowns. Hill’s numbers should go up with more opportunities, which is certainly possible given Bernard’s growing list of bumps and bruises.
Bobby Rainey and Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday’s overtime loss to Minnesota, adding yet another bump in the second-year player’s road. Even when he’s managed to stay on the field, Martin has been ineffective at best, averaging less than three yards per carry with one touchdown. Rainey figures to be next man up, as he’s leading the team in rushing with 287 yards (4.6 ypc) and is third in receptions (22). Sims, however, is the potential wild card. The Buccaneers’ third-round pick, Sims fractured his ankle during the preseason and has been out since. He returned to practice last week and with Martin’s uncertain status, Sims could get some touches sooner rather than later. Described as a Matt Forté clone when he was drafted, Sims was touted coming out of West Virginia (started collegiate career at Houston) for his pass-catching ability. If anything, Sims is worth a stash, especially if your league has an injured reserve (IR) slot.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Carolina hosts New Orleans on Thursday and for the first time in a while, the Panthers may have a crowded backfield. Williams, who has missed all but two games because of ankle injuries, is expected to return to action this week. This muddies the outlook for Stewart, who missed three games because of a sprained knee but has rushed for 129 yards since his Week 7 return. Carolina loves to run the ball and would prefer to have its backs carry the load rather than quarterback Cam Newton. Even though Stewart and Williams figure to split the carries (as long as the other doesn’t get hurt again), they still could provide RB2/flex-worthy production, especially considering the Panthers’ upcoming matchups (NO, at PHI).
Other possible fill-in options*: Andre Williams, Darren McFadden, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Carlos Hyde
Week 8 Recap: Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks with six catches for 61 yards while Jermaine Kearse was limited to just two grabs for 15 yards. Mike Evans paced the Buccaneers with 78 yards on four receptions, while Jarvis Landry caught three balls for 23 yards.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
A third-round pick from Division II Pittsburg State, Brown leads the Cardinals with four touchdown receptions, which is as many as Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd have combined. On Sunday, Brown caught five passes for 119 yards, including the game-winning, 75-yard touchdown strike from Carson Palmer, to help Arizona get by Philadelphia on Sunday. Even with Fitzgerald and Floyd around, Brown has averaged seven targets and 67.7 yards receiving over the last three games. The big-play ability is clearly there, as well as a developing chemistry between the young Cardinal wideout and his quarterback. With a steady diet of targets, Brown could develop into a second-half fantasy surprise.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown is an absolute stud, and Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller (see below) have to be accounted for, but Bryant has made quite the first impression as a rookie. Held out of the first six games because of a preseason hamstring injury, Bryant now has three touchdowns in his first two career games. Two of those came on Sunday, as Bryant (5-83-2) played a big part in Ben Roethlisberger’s record-setting (522, 6 TDs) performance against Indianapolis. Wheaton has struggled to produce consistently, which helped open the door for Bryant to get involved right away. The speedy fourth-round pick from Clemson has already shown what he brings to the table, and it’s highly likely there’s more big plays to come.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne missed Sunday’s game because of an elbow injury and it’s possible he could be out again this week. Hakeem Nicks got the start in place of Wayne, but it was Moncrief who shined with more playing time. The Colts’ third-round pick, Moncrief’s contributions were minimal to start, but he busted out in a big way on Sunday. He was targeted a team-high 12 times, catching seven of those for 113 yards and a touchdown. Even when Wayne returns, Moncrief could replace Nicks as Indianapolis’ No. 3 wide receiver, as the rookie boasts more big-play ability and athleticism than the veteran. And being the third wideout in the league’s most pass-happy offense is not exactly the worst situation to be in fantasy-wise.
Other possible fill-in options*: Brandon LaFell, Odell Beckham Jr., Andre Holmes, Cecil Shorts, Dwayne Bowe, Malcolm Floyd, James Jones
Week 8 Recap: Charles Clay followed up the best game of the season with his worst effort – one catch for one yard.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
The wily old veteran had a nice outing on Sunday – season-high 112 yards with a touchdown. While he may not be as productive as in years past, Miller is still one of Ben Roethlisberger’s most trusted targets. And the more looks Miller gets, the better his numbers have been. In the three games where’s he gotten at least seven targets, Miller has averaged seven receptions for 77.3 yards and both of his touchdowns. He’s still a top-10 fantasy TE, which is an asset that will be in short supply these next two weeks with so many teams on bye.
Other possible fill-in options*: Larry Donnell, Austin Seferian- Jenkins, Jace Amaro, Coby Fleener
Week 8 Recap: Indianapolis’ DST did recover two fumbles and blocked a poorly executed punt by Ben Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, the Colts also gave up 522 yards passing and six touchdowns to Big Ben, as the Steelers piled up 639 total yards and put up 51 points (43 allowed by the DST) on Sunday.
The Bengals’ DST has been a fantasy disappointment in many ways (total of -1 points in Weeks 5 and 6 combined), but there’s still plenty of time for this unit to redeem itself. For starters, this DST did post double-digit fantasy points in each of the first three weeks and has forced four turnovers over the last two games. Then there’s the matter of this week’s matchup with Jacksonville. The Jaguars are giving up the most fantasy points (17 per game) to opposing DSTs, including 30 on Sunday to the Dolphins. Blake Bortles leads the NFL in interceptions (12) even though he’s played in just six games and he has had four of them returned for touchdowns. Forget bye-week fill-in, I could make an argument that the Bengals are a must-start DST this week.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had a sack party Sunday against the Rams, bringing Austin Davis down seven times. They also picked off one pass and got a 99-yard kickoff return from Knile Davis to finish with 21 fantasy points, tied for second behind Miami (30 pts). For the season, the Chiefs are tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 sacks and with a few more turnovers (5 total) would be a more productive fantasy DST. The good news is that next up is a Jets team that coughed it up six times (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) and gave up four sacks to the Bills on Sunday. After the Jets, Kansas City draws Buffalo in Week 10. Given the Bills’ backfield woes, the Chiefs’ DST may be worth keeping around for a few weeks.
Other possible fill-in options*: Baltimore, Arizona, Miami, Cleveland
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
*Players owned in less than 70% of Yahoo! leagues.