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Why You Must Start Emmanuel Sanders and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 9

Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders

Some big-name and highly drafted fantasy wide receivers and tight ends came up with nice games in Week 8, while some others either floundered or continued to disappoint. How accurate was my advice along these lines?

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Good Calls:

Start Alshon Jeffery (17.6 fantasy points) – Jeffery is back and instantly a top-5 WR once again.

Start Brandin Cooks (20.5 FP) – Everyone and their grandmother caught a touchdown pass from Drew Brees last week, thankfully Cooks caught two of them.

Sit Randall Cobb (3.7 FP) – Cobb really, really, really misses Jordy Nelson.

Sit Mike Evans (4.8 FP) – Trying to figure out the Jameis Winston-to-Evans connection is like trying to figure out girls or astrophysics.

Start Travis Kelce (10.9 FP) – Would you look at that? Kelce finally caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 1.

Bad Calls:

Start Martellus Bennett (3.2 FP) – Is it just me or does Bennett seem disinterested on the football field?

Start Tyler Eifert (3.9 FP) – Eifert is all over the map when it comes to consistency, but he’s too good not to trust each week

Sit Jimmy Graham (7.5 FP) – In a game where Russell Wilson struggled all game, he was able to connect with Graham for 75 yards.

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

Teams on bye: Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Seattle

Wide Receivers


Mike Evans, TB (vs. NYG)

You never know what you are going to get from Evans on a week-to-week basis. He just hasn’t established a great rapport just yet with Jameis Winston. One week he’ll score 22.4 fantasy points like he did in Week 7, and then the next he’ll get you 4.8 fantasy points like he did last week against the Falcons. Things are looking good this week for the Winston-to-Evans combo, as the New York Giants come to town. Now the Giants are currently only giving up the 12th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, but last week they allowed Dree Brees to throw for more than 500 yards and seven TDs. Now don’t expect Winston to do that, but I’m sure the Bucs see something they can exploit and Evans will end up with 150 yards and maybe two scores.

Emmanuel Sanders, DEN (at IND)

Sanders watched last week as all Peyton Manning did was throw the ball over and over and over again to Demaryius Thomas. That led to Sanders scoring only 2.2 fantasy points. But before that clunker of a game, Sanders had back-to-back 100-yard games. This week the Broncos travel to Indianapolis so Manning can face his old team once again. This means that Thomas is going to see one-on-one coverage from one of the best cover corners in the game, Vontae Davis. That will allow Manning to exploit the Colts’ defense, which is allowing an average of 280 passing yards per game and the 10th-most fantasy points to WRs this season. Look for Sanders to once again go over 100 yards with a touchdown.

Amari Cooper, OAK (at PIT)

Cooper was a must-sit last week and hopefully you listened to my advice because he only scored 4.8 fantasy points on five catches for 46 yards. This week he’s back to being an absolute must-start as the Raiders face a weak Steelers secondary that has struggled against the pass. Last week A.J. Green burned the Steelers for 118 yards and a touchdown and with the way Derek Carr is playing right now, you should expect Cooper to post similar numbers to Green’s.


Stevie Johnson, SD (vs. CHI, Mon.)

Johnson could be a sneaky good play this week because he could be the de facto No. 1 wide receiver in San Diego with Keenan Allen out for the rest of the season because of a kidney injury. There’s no doubt that with Allen out, Antonio Gates will be Philip Rivers No. 1 target, but seeing that the Chargers are struggling to run the ball and Rivers is throwing it 40-plus times per game, there should be plenty of targets coming Johnson’s way. It also helps that the Chicago Bears’ defense, which has given up the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers, is coming to town for a Monday night clash. Look for Johnson to catch at least eight passes and go over 100 yards receiving in this one.


T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs. DEN)

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As crazy as it sounds, some people are starting to wonder whether or not they should cut Hilton. While that might not be a great idea and a bit of an overreaction, who can blame them? Hilton has had only one good fantasy game this season and is coming off a Monday night showing against the Carolina Panthers where he scored just 1.5 fantasy points thanks to a single catch for 15 yards. That’s pathetic. Luckily in last week’s start/sit column I told you to sit Hilton and this week you should leave him on your bench too because the Denver Broncos are coming to town. The Broncos happen to have the best defense in football. They have allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the year and just held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing for the entire game.

Randall Cobb, GB (vs. CAR)

Another superstar wide receiver who was probably taken in the second round of many fantasy drafts that is having a terrible season. If you are a Cobb owner you might want to skip this next part. Cobb has scored 4.4, 2.3, 3.8 and 3.7 fantasy points in his last four games. That’s atrocious. The entire Green Bay offense has been stuck in the mud the last several weeks and even with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, things are not going to get any better for Cobb. This week Green Bay travels to Carolina to play a Panthers defense that is giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to WRs and Cobb will be matched up against elite cornerback Josh Norman. Cobb might not even score 3 fantasy points this week.

Allen Robinson, JAC (at NYJ)

Robinson has played his way into being a WR1 in fantasy football. Not bad for someone who was probably drafted in the mid-to-late rounds of your fantasy draft. Robinson is coming off his bye week but in his two previous games he’s scored 14.6 and 15.8 fantasy points respectively and he’s caught four touchdown passes in his last three games. But can he put up WR1-like numbers this week against Darrelle Revis when the Jaguars take on the Jets? Probably not. The Jets have allowed only 286 total yards to their opponents’ No. 1 WR all season. Oh, and these top-flight pass catchers have only scored one touchdown against this defense. Leave Robinson on the bench this week.


Brandin Cooks, NO (vs. TEN)

Cooks and Drew Brees look like they are finally getting on the same page. Cooks has 80-plus receiving yards in his last two games and he caught two of Drew Brees’ seven touchdown passes last week. But this week he faces a tough matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Yes, it’s true. The Titans’ defense is actually pretty good against the pass. As a unit they are only allowing the 17th-most fantasy points to wide receivers and No. 1s have only scored a single touchdown. It’s hard to bet against Cooks this week with the way Brees is playing, but don’t expect Cooks to find the end zone this week.

Tight Ends


Jordan Reed, WAS (at NE)
When Reed is on the field and 100 percent healthy, he’s an absolute must-start as long as Kirk Cousins is his quarterback. Just look at last week, which was Reed’s first game back after missing the previous two with a concussion. You might have thought that the Redskins would have eased Reed back in. Nope, Cousins and Reed hooked up 11 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Reed is one of the most talented tight ends in the NFL and even though this week’s matchup isn’t a good one on paper because the New England Patriots are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position, Reed is basically matchup-proof.

Heath Miller, PIT (vs. OAK)

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In the two games that Miller has played with Ben Roethlisberger this season, he has 18 catches for 189 yards, which is pretty darn good. Just last week against the Bengals, Miller and Big Ben hooked up for 10 catches and 105 yards. With both Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the outside, there is plenty of room of Miller to maneuver in the middle of the field and whenever Big Ben is in trouble, he always looks Miller’s way. You can expect more Roethlisberger-to-Miller magic this week because the Oakland Raiders are coming to town and are allowing a whopping 302.1 passing yards per game and have surrendered the most fantasy points to tight ends this season.

Benjamin Watson, NO (vs. TEN)

We all know that Watson is not Jimmy Graham but the Saints’ offense is at its best when it utilizes the tight end. Over the past few weeks Watson has moved from an afterthought to a major focal point in New Orleans’ attack. Just look at Week 6 when Watson scored 18.6 fantasy points or last week when he caught 9-of-10 targets for 147 yards and a touchdown. Those type of numbers can’t be expected every week, but with Drew Brees playing like the old Brees that we’ve all grown to love, you can bet that Watson is going to be a pretty reliable fantasy option week in and week out. This week the Saints play at home against the Tennessee Titans, who are giving up the 13th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Watson is an excellent choice this week if you stream tight ends.


Jacob Tamme, ATL (at SF)

Tamme is a must-start in every game that Leonard Hankerson doesn’t play. Why? Because when Hankerson is out, Tamme is clearly Matt Ryan’s No. 2 target after Julio Jones. In the first game that Hankerson missed, Tamme caught eight passes for 94 yards. Then last week with Hankerson on the sidelines, Tamme went off for 10 catches, 103 yards and a touchdown. Guess who’s not playing this week? That’s right, Hankerson. So you can expect Tamme to see another 10-plus targets and come close to 100 yards receiving with one touchdown.


Julius Thomas, JAC (at NYJ)

Thomas was limited to just 36 snaps two weeks ago against the Bills thanks to a groin injury. He should be good coming off of the bye, but be sure to check his status first and foremost if you are thinking of playing him this week. Then make sure to not play him. Why? Other than when Rob Gronkowski went off on them (that happens to pretty much every defense), the Jets’ D is currently allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. In fact, tight ends are averaging less than seven fantasy points per game against the Jets this season and Thomas isn’t going to buck that trend.

Jason Witten, DAL (vs. PHI)

It doesn’t look like Matt Cassel likes to throw the ball to Witten. Just look at last week when Cassel only targeted Witten four times. Witten caught two of those passes for 16 yards. With Dez Bryant back and Darren McFadden playing really well, including as a receiver out of the backfield (Captain Checkdown!), don’t expect Witten to do much fantasy-wise until Tony Romo comes back. This week is actually a terrible matchup for Witten anyways as the Philadelphia Eagles are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

Zach Ertz, PHI (at DAL)

With a whopping six teams on a bye this week, you might be looking over the waiver wire for a tight end and you may find Ertz just hanging around. If you do, keep scanning and see if Jacob Tamme or Benjamin Watson is available instead. Ertz has failed to score more than 6.3 fantasy points in any game this season. That includes the 1.7 he posted against the Cowboys in Week 2. Ertz also hasn’t scored a touchdown so far this season. Those are plenty of great reasons to leave Ertz on the waiver wire this week.


Vernon Davis, DEN (at IND)

Anyone who is looking to get ahead of the curve and get on the Davis-in-Denver-might-be-better-than-Julius-Thomas-was train might want to hold up a bit. First off, there is no guarantee that Davis plays this week. Secondly, while Davis is a significant upgrade over Owen Daniels and Virgil Green, we need to see what he has left in the tank. It’s not as if over the past two seasons Davis has fantasy relevant. Plus it’s going to take some time for him to learn the offense and gain the trust of Peyton Manning. Maybe by next week Davis might be worth starting, but this week he’s only worth stashing.

— 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.