Both the New York Giants and the Las Vegas Raiders come into Week 9 in some flux at the quarterback position. The Giants are returning starter Daniel Jones after backup Tyrod Taylor went down. The Raiders are seemingly benching starter Jimmy Garoppolo for backup Aidan O’Connell. Vegas also just fired their head coach, general manager, and offensive coordinator to add to the chaos. Oh, and the Giants’ top receiving weapon, Darren Waller, is also out.
All of this makes the game script very difficult to evaluate. How will each quarterback utilize the weapons at their disposal? Will the running backs be able to succeed when they will likely be the focal point of both offenses — and defenses?
Those questions also make fantasy starts and sits a tough decision in this game.
- RB Saquon Barkley: Barkley is a must-start every week because of the volume you would expect to see from him. The Raiders have allowed 24.5 fantasy points per game to running backs, the fourth-worst mark in the NFL. Barkley has put up 13.80, 17.80, and 15.80 PPR points in his last three games. I think this is a safe bet from a volume perspective with plenty of upside.
- WR Davante Adams: Adams has been getting increasingly frustrated over the last few weeks, as he’s seen just seven targets per game over the last four games, including just 16 in Weeks 5-6 and 8. Against Detroit, he managed just one catch for 11 yards on seven targets and finished with 2.10 PPR points. Still, Deonte Banks struggled against Garrett Wilson last week, allowing seven catches for 100 yards and 17.60 PPR points. Adams is still in a different league than Wilson in terms of precise route-running, so I would expect a rebound from the three-time All-Pro.
On the fence
- WR Jakobi Meyers: Meyers was a very reliable WR2 when Garoppolo was under center, putting up at least 15.50 fantasy points in five of his seven games played this season. He had just one catch on one target in Garoppolo’s disastrous game against Detroit last week. How O’Connell will utilize Meyers remains to be seen, though. With Adams, Josh Jacobs, and Michael Mayer as other receiving options, Meyers could lose some volume in the passing game.
- RB Josh Jacobs: Jacobs has had a highly disappointing season for fantasy managers, putting up the ninth-most PPR points but being held under 12 points five times. His touchdown against the Lions last week saved him from the same fate. Jacobs is averaging an astoundingly low 3.1 yards per carry, but because he’s getting 16.6 carries and 5.0 targets per game, he’s still a viable, if risky, RB2. The Giants have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, but their run defense has been very stingy in recent weeks. With a rookie passer, the Raiders may try to establish the run, but it just hasn’t worked out too well this season.
- WR Darius Slayton: The Raiders’ worst area of the field in the passing game is the intermediate range. With Darren Waller out, Slayton is the Giants’ clear top target in that area of the field. He’s never a wise start and has posted over 10 PPR points just once this year, but if you’re desperate with byes he might be a desperation dart as a deep sleeper pick.
- Both defenses: Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux demolished the Jets’ makeshift offensive line last week, combining for 18 pressures and four sacks. Garoppolo was 21st in the NFL with a 7.2% sack rate, and O’Connell was sacked seven times in his lone NFL start against the Chargers. The Giants’ defense has scored at least 14 fantasy points in three out of the last four weeks and forced eight turnovers in the last four contests, including one pick-six. The Raiders’ defense has the NFL’s pressure king in Mad Maxx Crosby and is going up against a quarterback who’s thrown four more interceptions than touchdowns this season behind a makeshift offensive line. Opposing defenses have scored double-digit points against the Giants five times this season and have gone under eight points only once. Both of these defenses are good plays.
- Both quarterbacks: Daniel Jones has had only one fantasy-relevant game all season. Aidan O’Connell is a fourth-round rookie who posted 7.82 fantasy points in his lone start so far this season. There are better streaming options out there.
- TE Michael Mayer: Mayer appeared on many “start ‘em” lists after his 12.50 PPR points against the Patriots in Week 6. His snap share has remained high, going all the way up to 91% in Week 8. Still, the targets haven’t been there, as he’s exceeded four just once in his six games played. Mayer has the potential to become relevant, but with Adams, Meyers, and Jacobs as alternatives, Mayer is nothing more than a stash until he shows some consistency. As a clincher, the Giants average the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends.
- TE Daniel Bellinger: Why would you even think to start Bellinger given that he’s been a non-factor this season? Because he had some decent value as a tight end prior to his eye injury in 2022, posting at least 8.00 PPR points in four of his six full games played. His best two games came in the two before his Week 7 injury: 10.40 points against the Packers and 14.80 vs. the Ravens. Perhaps the thinking is that Bellinger could be a sleeper if he rediscovers that connection to Jones in a tight end-centric offense missing Darren Waller. Still, the Giants are likely to keep Bellinger in to help block or at least chip Maxx Crosby. I would not count on there being enough volume for any sort of fantasy relevance.
- Both kickers: There’s something wrong with Graham Gano. He’s made just 11 of 17 field goals, including a chip-shot miss last week that allowed the Jets the chance for their comeback. Gano is listed as questionable, and the knee injury is likely affecting him despite his protestations to the contrary. On the other side, Daniel Carlson is also questionable with a groin injury. He’s scored double-digit points just once this year and has gone under seven points in all but two games, including just 2.00 last week. Neither kicker should be started.
Around the NFL
- The Chiefs’ run defense could be more vulnerable than usual with the loss of linebacker Nick Bolton to a wrist injury. That means RB Raheem Mostert looks like a better play even with Kansas City allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Mostert is listed as questionable and did not practice on Wednesday, but he did the same last week and played in the game on Sunday.
- WR CeeDee Lamb is coming off a 41-point explosion against the Rams, and he has another enticing matchup in Week 9. The Eagles’ defense has allowed the most fantasy points per game to receivers. Neither Darius Slay nor James Bradberry has been able to replicate the success of 2022. Bringing in Kevin Byard didn’t help, either, as the Eagles gave up 108 receiving yards to Jahan Dotson and 95 to Jamison Crowder, part of a 397-yard, four-touchdown effort for Sam Howell.
- How will Kirk Cousins’ season-ending injury affect Vikings players? WR Jordan Addison has been balling out in Justin Jefferson’s absence after already being fantasy-relevant while Jefferson was in the lineup. He scored 31.30 PPR points against the 49ers last week. Although Minnesota traded for Josh Dobbs, their plan is to start rookie fifth-round pick Jaren Hall for at least one week. What does that mean for Addison on a team that also traded away a starting guard? Tread carefully in Week 9.
- I think it’s time that we christen both Colts receivers, Michael Pittman and Josh Downs, as weekly fantasy starters. In their difficult matchup against the Saints last week, both players had at least 14 fantasy points. Downs had more yardage, while Pittman had more catches and a touchdown. It seems that the two can coexist and still ball out. Even with Gardner Minshew an uncertain option from week to week, his two receivers are safe.
- What to make of Cleveland’s whole offense? Deshaun Watson certainly wasn’t playing well when he was in the lineup, but he had two 20-point fantasy efforts in his first three weeks. Watson appears to be on track to miss this week’s game, leaving P.J. Walker under center once more. Amari Cooper has been erratic since Watson’s injury, posting two games with at least 13.80 PPR points but another two under 4.30. Elijah Moore is unplayable in fantasy, whereas he showed some potential volume value over the first three weeks. David Njoku has benefited from Watson’s injury, scoring at least 10 PPR points in three of the last four weeks and 17.70 against the Seahawks last week. Meanwhile, the running back situation has become murky, as Jerome Ford’s return from an injury that was supposed to keep him out for a couple of weeks led to a three-way committee. With a good matchup against Arizona, I would still pick Kareem Hunt as the lead back; he scored 13.70 PPR points on 14 touches last week, including a touchdown, and has now scored at least that number of points in three consecutive games. To summarize this too-long paragraph, start Cooper because of the decent matchup, sit Moore, consider Njoku if you don’t have someone more reliable, and stick with Hunt but likely not Ford or Pierre Strong.
Starting/streaming options due to injury
- QB Will Levis, TEN: Levis was named the starter this week after a four-touchdown performance against the Falcons. DeAndre Hopkins is listed as questionable, though, and he snagged three of those scores. The Steelers are in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but they rank seventh in sacks per game and could rattle the rookie. He’s a streaming option if your quarterback has a bye, but he’s more risky than, say, Sam Howell, who is also available in many leagues.
- RB Darrell Henderson, LAR: The Rams signed Henderson to the active roster after an 11.50-point performance against Dallas. He’s facing a Packers team that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. Keep Henderson for as long as Kyren Williams is on IR.
- RB Devin Singletary, HOU: Dameon Pierce is questionable with an ankle injury. He and Singletary have already been splitting time significantly in the backfield, which would make Singletary a potential option if Pierce can’t go. Still, it’s a tough matchup this week against a Buccaneers run defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to backs.
- WR Demario Douglas, NE: Kendrick Bourne had three straight 12+ point performances before tearing his ACL against the Dolphins. With JuJu Smith-Schuster looking mostly washed and DeVante Parker in concussion protocol, there’s a chance Douglas could become a viable fantasy option. He saw seven targets last week on a 77% snap share, and that could increase. As the fastest of the Patriots’ options, Douglas could also see some touches in the jet-sweep game.
- WR Treylon Burks/TE Chigoziem Okonkwo, TEN: With Hopkins listed as questionable, the next men up for Will Levis would likely be either second-year receiver Treylon Burks or tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. Neither one has been much of a fantasy option this year. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has had some randomly good weeks, but all three were touchdown-based, and he’s not reliable.
- WR Jahan Dotson, WAS: Dotson had his best game of the season last week with eight catches for 108 yards and a score. Curtis Samuel is dealing with a toe injury and is questionable for this week. It was expected that Dotson would be the Commanders’ clear WR2 this year, but Samuel eclipsed him for most of the season. If Samuel can’t go, there’s a good chance Dotson will give you some viable production, particularly with Sam Howell second in the NFL in pass attempts, third in completions, and sixth in yards. Additionally, the Patriots rank 21st in fantasy points per game allowed to receivers.
- WR Jonathan Mingo, CAR: The Panthers’ D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault Jr., and Hayden Hurst are all listed as questionable with various ailments. That would leave Mingo with an even clearer path toward fantasy viability. He had his first double-digit PPR performance last week, catching four balls for 62 yards on a 99% snap share. Outside of Adam Thielen, no one in this passing game has been reliable with Bryce Young’s rookie struggles. Still, perhaps Mingo can have low-tier FLEX value in a matchup against the 18th-ranked Colts receiving defense.
- TE Donald Parham, LAC: This applies only if Gerald Everett misses his second consecutive game. The Jets allow the fewest fantasy points per game to receivers, but they’re the eighth-worst against tight ends. Parham played 62% of the snaps and scored 14.30 PPR points last week on four receptions, including a touchdown. Getting into the end zone might not be as simple, but if Everett doesn’t play, there’s a good chance the volume will be there for Parham.