Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 9: Start Jamaal Williams, Deon Jackson; Sit Tom Brady, Darren Waller
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady.
A number of shocking things have happened over the first eight weeks of the NFL season, and setting fantasy lineups might be a serious chore with the sheer number of injuries and befuddling situations.
Whether you're 8-0 and cruising toward the playoffs or 0-8 and playing to avoid a last-place punishment, stay diligent on the waiver wire, send trade offers and make savvy start/sit decisions. There's way too much football left to get complacent or give up.
A gentle reminder that the Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Giants, Steelers and 49ers are all on bye this week, meaning you will need to take Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb, CeeDee Lamb, Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard, Ezekiel Elliott, Jerry Jeudy, Russell Wilson, Greg Dulcich, Saquon Barkley, Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, et al. out of your lineups.
Below are some players at each position you should start in Week 9, as well as some players you should consider sitting based on matchups, injuries and trends.
Week 9 Start 'Em
Quarterbacks to Start
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at Commanders)
Cousins is coming off another solid outing as he completed 24-of-36 attempts for 232 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and rushed four times for 22 yards and a touchdown. He was the QB7 in Week 8 and is the QB10 for the year on a per-game basis.
He should get a nice boost following the addition of tight end T.J. Hockenson, whom the Vikings acquired from the Lions at the deadline.
I love Cousins in this revenge road matchup against his former squad. The Commanders rank 28th in pass defense DVOA (according to Football Outsiders) and have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. The matchup alone vaults Cousins into the low-end QB1 tier.
Justin Fields, Bears (vs. Dolphins)
Fields was my favorite waiver wire pickup at the quarterback position this week. He is fresh off his best fantasy performance of the season against the Cowboys, who ranked No. 2 in defensive DVOA entering the week.
Fields completed 17-of-23 attempts for 151 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions and tacked on eight rushes for 60 yards and a touchdown. He was the QB5 for the week and is the QB6 on a per-game basis since Week 5 after a rather slow start.
Wide Receivers to Start
Devin Duvernay, Ravens (at Saints)
Duvernay isn't the receiver the Ravens would have chosen to be their No. 1 in the preseason, but he is the one they have in Week 9.
He caught all four of this targets in Week 8 against the Buccaneers for 31 yards and rushed twice for 33 yards and a touchdown. He was the WR17 for the week in half-PPR scoring and will serve as the team's WR1 with Rashod Bateman out for the season.
The matchup is okay, not great, against the Saints, who have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to receivers (though New Orleans did just blank the Raiders). Duvernay should be considered a high-upside WR3 based on opportunity, especially if tight end Mark Andrews misses the game.
Joshua Palmer, Chargers (at Falcons)
Palmer falls into a similar category as Duvernay in that he could capitalize on his team's decimated depth chart.
He will be the de facto No. 1 with Mike Williams out with a high ankle sprain and Keenan Allen surprisingly ruled out with a hamstring injury. I expect he — along with DeAndre Carter and tight end Gerald Everett — will see an uptick in targets.
Palmer missed the Chargers' Week 7 matchup against the Seahawks before their Week 8 bye as he was in concussion protocol. He is carrying no injury designation heading into Week 9 against the Falcons, whose defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers and ranks 30th in pass DVOA. Palmer should be considered a WR2 in light of opportunity and matchup.
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots (vs. Colts)
Meyers is quietly having a fantastic season despite New England's shaky quarterback play. He is the WR14 on a per-game basis in half PPR and is coming off another top-12 finish as he hauled in 9-of-13 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown — his third score in four weeks.
Meyers has missed two games this season, but he still leads Patriots pass-catchers in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns.
The matchup is less than ideal against the Colts, whose defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. Still, I am riding the hot hand and would start Meyers as a low-end WR2 with confidence in Week 9.
Christian Kirk, Jaguars (vs. Raiders)
Kirk had a disappointing Week 8 against the Broncos in which he caught 3-of-7 targets for 40 yards. He was the WR53 in half PPR, which is forgivable given Denver has the No. 1 pass defense (according to DVOA).
I expect Kirk to bounce back against the Raiders, whose defense is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He should be considered a low-end WR2 once again at home against Las Vegas' 31st-ranked pass defense.
Running Backs to Start
Jamaal Williams, Lions (vs. Packers)
Williams was a pleasant surprise in Week 8 after many analysts were down on him in light of a goal-line fumble in Week 7 and the return of D'Andre Swift. He exploded and tallied 10 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 23 yards. He was the RB9 in half-PPR scoring and is the RB11 on a per-game basis this year.
Swift out-snapped Williams 33 to 22 and tallied 10 touches for 32 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, finishing as the RB23. However, Swift is listed as questionable with ankle and shoulder injures — the same ones that held him out of Weeks 4 through 7.
Williams is a must-start this week, with or without Swift, as it is unclear what role Swift would play if on the field. The matchup is a juicy one against the Packers, whose defense ranks 31st in rush DVOA. Williams is a RB2 if Swift plays and a RB1 if Swift sits.
Deon Jackson, Colts (at Patriots)
The bad news is that Jackson has not done much since Jonathan Taylor returned.
The good news (unless you are a Taylor manager) is that Taylor has been ruled out for the Colts' Week 9 matchup against the Patriots due to an ankle injury.
Jackson logged 13 carries for 62 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards in Week 5 against Denver. In the following week against the Commanders, Jackson was the RB1 with 12 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown and 10 catches for 79 yards.
With Nyheim Hines out of the picture, he should immediately vault into the high-end RB2 conversation even in this difficult matchup based on volume and opportunity.
Tyler Allgeier, Falcons (vs. Chargers)
Both Falcons running backs were solid in a overtime win over the Panthers. Allgeier rushed 14 times for 39 yards and caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown, while Huntley rushed 16 times for 91 yards.
Allgeier finished as the RB13 and out-snapped Huntley, who was the RB29, 40 to 24. Allgeier has scored in back-to-back weeks and would be my preferred start of the two this week against the Chargers, whose defense ranks 23rd in rush DVOA and second-worst against fantasy running backs.
He is a RB2 in a game that could be more competitive than it would seem on paper with so many of L.A.'s pass-catchers banged up.
Antonio Gibson, Commanders (vs. Vikings)
Perhaps we wrote off Gibson a little too early. He has been rock solid with touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, finishing as the RB16 and RB12 in half-PPR.
Brian Robinson, on the other hand, has had two down weeks. He was the RB27 in Week 7 and RB61 in Week 8, tallying 20 yards on eight attempts.
Week 8 was the first game in three weeks in which Gibson out-snapped Robinson. Gibson's involvement in the passing game makes him a more attractive start than Robinson this week against Minnesota's middle-of-the-road run defense. He should be considered a low-end RB2 with upside.
Tight Ends to Start
Evan Engram, Jaguars (vs. Raiders)
Over the last four weeks, Engram is quietly averaging 7.25 targets per game and is the TE8 per game in half-PPR scoring. He was impressive despite a difficult matchup against the Broncos and caught 4-of-6 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown — his first of the year.
Engram was the TE4 in Week 8 and has a mouthwatering two-game stretch coming up against the Raiders and Chiefs. He should be considered a low-end TE1 with a relatively safe floor this week opposite the Raiders' 31st-ranked pass defense which has allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this year.
Isaiah Likely, Ravens (at Saints)
Likely is coming off of a breakout game on Thursday night against the Buccaneers. He caught 6-of-7 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown with star tight end Mark Andrews dealing with a shoulder injury. He led the Ravens in all receiving categories and was the TE2 in half-PPR scoring.
Andrews’ shoulder injury is not believed to be serious, but he has missed practice all week, which leaves his status against the Saints up in the air.
The Ravens also lost Rashod Bateman for the season with a foot injury, which could mean that Likely is in line for more targets no matter what. If Andrews sits, Likely immediately vaults into the TE1 conversation, even in a less-than-stellar matchup against the Saints.
Defense to Start
Bengals D/ST (vs. Panthers)
The Bengals defense is ninth in defensive DVOA this year, but has been pedestrian for fantasy, save Week 3 against the Jets. They were the DST13 last week in Cleveland, recording one fumble recovery, one interception and two sacks and are the DST20 this year.
Still, they should be a top-12 play this week against a Panthers team that has been surprisingly okay with P.J. Walker under center, but still ranks near the bottom of the NFL in almost every offensive category.
Week 9 Sit 'Em
Quarterbacks to Sit
Tom Brady, Buccaneers (vs. Rams)
I advocated for sitting Brady last week against the Ravens in my Thursday Night Football Start-Sit column. He wasn't a complete dud, though he did continue a four-game streak with one or fewer touchdowns.
That was Brady's sixth game (of eight) this year finishing outside of the top 12 for fantasy. He is currently on track for just 19 touchdowns, which would be a career low (not counting 2008 when he was injured in the first game of the year).
I do not see how you can trust him against almost anyone, including the Rams, who rank ninth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this year. Brady ranks outside of the top 12, even with six teams on bye.
Derek Carr, Raiders (at Jaguars)
To say that Carr was a disappointment in Week 8 would be a gross understatement. He completed 15-of-26 attempts for 101 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and finished as the QB29.
I, like many, had a lofty outlook for Carr this season after the addition of Davante Adams. He was the QB12 in fantasy last year without Adams and threw for the fifth-most passing yards.
This year, he is the QB26 on a per-game basis and has only broken 20 fantasy points once (in Tennessee back in Week 3). I do expect him to bounce back against the Jaguars, whose defense ranks 21st in pass DVOA — just not enough to justify starting him.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Robert Woods, Titans (at Chiefs)
On paper, this should be a sweet matchup for Woods and the Titans against the Chiefs' porous defense.
In reality, there are a plethora of reasons to panic about the Titans, who may or may not be starting Malik Willis again.
With Ryan Tannehill sidelined in Week 8, Willis attempted just 10 passes in his first NFL start against the Texans and completed six passes for 55 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Woods caught both of his targets for 26 yards and was the WR78 in half-PPR scoring for the week.
Tannehill is a game-time decision at Arrowhead Stadium facing Andy Reid off the bye. Unless you are desperate, Woods belongs on your bench (especially if Willis starts) and can also be dropped if you need the space.
Romeo Doubs, Packers (at Lions)
Doubs is coming off his second-best fantasy performance to date in what was a difficult matchup on paper against the Bills. He caught 4-of-7 targets for 62 yards and a touchdown and was the WR19 in half PPR for Week 8.
This stat line deserves to be contextualized, however. No. 1 wideout Allen Lazard missed the game with a shoulder injury and fellow rookie receiver Christian Watson exited due to a concussion. Both are questionable to play this week, though Watson did clear the protocol and practiced in a limited fashion on Friday.
Assuming all three play, Doubs is a very risky start — even against a Detroit defense which ranks last in pass DVOA. Doubs would be a WR2 if Watson and Lazard were to sit. If just one sits, Doubs would probably fall in the boom-or-bust WR3/flex category.
Monitor the actives/inactives ahead of Sunday's game before plugging Doubs into your lineups solely based on his solid Week 8.
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs (vs. Titans)
Repeat after me: I will not chase Mecole Hardman touchdowns.
I refuse to fall for the Hardman honey pot on the heels of his fantastic Week 7 performance. He was phenomenal against the 49ers in the Super Bowl 2020 rematch and caught 4-of-4 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed twice for 28 yards and two touchdowns and was the WR2 in half PPR for the week.
The Chiefs will be wellrested after their Week 8 bye to face the Titans defense, which has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
That said, Hardman is the definition of boom-or-bust and has never been consistent throughout his career. It could be a Hardman game, or a JuJu Smith-Schuster game, or a Marquez Valdes-Scantling game. All three are boom-or-bust options this week (though I much prefer Smith-Schuster over the other two).
Allen Robinson II, Rams (at Buccaneers)
Robinson has had two good games all year (Weeks 2 and 6) and has been underwhelming otherwise. He is the WR60 in half PPR this season and caught 5-of-7 passes for 54 yards in Week 8 against the 49ers.
There may be temptation to start Robinson with Cooper Kupp dealing with an ankle injury (though he is expected to play). I just cannot envision a scenario where I would trust anyone on the Rams — save Kupp and perhaps Tyler Higbee — against the Buccaneers, whose defense ranks top six in pass DVOA. Robinson is a risky WR4 with a low floor in Week 9.
Running Backs to Sit
Michael Carter, Jets (vs. Bills)
With rookie Breece Hall out for the year, I had high hopes for Carter entering Week 8 . He was underwhelming, however, and rushed seven times for 26 yards and caught four passes for 35 yards, finishing as the RB33 in half PPR for the week. Newly acquired James Robinson was even worse and tallied five rushes for 17 yards.
Both are sits for me this week in a brutal matchup against the Bills, though I would prefer Carter to Robinson by a country mile if I had to start one. Buffalo's defense ranks top five in rush DVOA, top four in overall defensive DVOA and top four in fantasy points allowed to running backs this year.
Darrell Henderson Jr., Rams (at Buccaneers)
Henderson had every opportunity to seize control of the Rams' backfield amid the drama between Cam Akers and the coaching staff. He was solid against Carolina in Week 6 and was the RB16, though that game was so bad for the Panthers that the team began cleaning house promptly after.
Coming out of the bye, the Rams opted for a different approach and featured fourth-string running back Ronnie Rivers, who out-touched Henderson 12 to 6 and out-gained him 21 to 16 on the ground. Henderson have the slight edge in snap counts with 24 to Rivers' 21, though that was a season-low 41% snap participation rate for Henderson.
In fairness, he was sick entering the week, but I still have little faith in his ability to produce in a tough matchup with Akers off the injury report and ostensibly returning this week. The Buccaneers have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year, rendering Henderson a low-upside RB3.
Dontrell Hilliard, Titans (at Chiefs)
Hilliard had a strong Week 8 performance against the Texans. He had eight carries for 83 yards and caught a pass for 12 yards, which was good enough to finish as the RB26 in half PPR.
Hilliard was used in relief of star running back Derrick Henry, who ran all over the Houston defense for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts. The Titans leaned very heavily on the run game with Malik Willis attempting only 10 passes in the game.
I'm not sure the game script will be similar this week against the Chiefs and as such, would be wary of expecting similar production from Hilliard.
Damien Harris, Patriots (vs. Colts)
Harris was the RB15 in half PPR through the first four weeks of the season. He injured his hamstring in Week 5, missed Week 6 due to the injury and lost his starting job in the process to Rhamondre Stevenson.
Stevenson, meanwhile, has been phenomenal and is the RB4 from Week 5 onwards.
Harris is listed as questionable entering this game due to an illness, which has limited him in practice. Regardless, Harris would be a tough play against the Colts, who rank No. 6 in rush DVOA, and in this lopsided timeshare that is not in his favor. He is a RB3 with downside in Week 9.
Tight Ends to Sit
Darren Waller, Raiders (at Jaguars)
It may be unfair to deem a player a bust due to injury. Waller is definitely bust-adjacent if so. He has not played since Week 4 in Denver due to a lingering hamstring injury and has had two games all year finishing as a TE1.
Waller is officially questionable entering the Raiders' matchup against the Jags, whose defense has been relatively tough against tight ends having allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to the position.
Even if he plays, I cannot envision a scenario where I would feel comfortable starting him in his first game back from injury on a team that was just blanked by the Saints.
Tyler Conklin, Jets (vs. Bills)
Conklin shined against the Patriots and was the TE1 for the week. He reeled in 6-of-10 targets for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns for his best game of of the year (and best game by far since Zach Wilson took over for Joe Flacco).
While I think Conklin is a talented tight end, I do not expect lightning to strike twice in a row against Buffalo. The Bills rank No. 4 in pass DVOA and have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Conklin is a risky, touchdown-dependent TE2 in Week 9.
Defense to Sit
Jets D/ST (vs. Bills)
Death, taxes and sitting defenses versus the Bills.
The Jets defense has been very solid this year and is the DST3 since Week 4 thanks in no small part to 2022 first-round cornerback Sauce Gardner. They finished top 10 last week against the Patriots, but will face a much more imposing adversary this week.
The Bills rank No. 2 in offensive points per game and No. 1 in offensive yards per game and are a nightmare matchup for any opposing defense.