The ESPN+ cheat sheet provides a rundown of the best tips from all of our fantasy football content. You’ll find answers to the biggest start/sit questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, Mike Clay, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Field Yates, Seth Walder, Al Zeidenfeld and myself. It’s all of the best advice in one handy article.
Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 9 in the NFL:
Top tips for Week 9
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Titans)
Berry and I are not shy about displaying our admiration over Stafford and Rams general manager Les Snead’s pursuit of him this offseason. “Anyway, from a fake football standpoint, his Stafford acquisition is looking better all the time,” writes Berry in this week’s fantasy football Love, Hate and the wisdom of Judge Matthew Berry. “Stafford has more games of 300-plus passing yards and three-plus passing touchdowns this season than any other QB in the NFL. He’s also second among quarterbacks in fantasy points per pass attempt and has three straight games with at least 24 fantasy points. That fantasy-points-per-pass-attempt stat is specifically useful this week against a Titans team that, over the past four weeks, has faced an average of 45.5 pass attempts per game from opponents, the most in the league. No Derrick Henry this week means Tennessee can’t slow the game down.” Over the past four games, Stafford has accumulated 1,254 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Browns)
“After ranking 29th in pass attempts the first four weeks of the season, Burrow is seventh in pass attempts since Week 5,” Berry wrote. “That increased volume has led to increased production. Burrow now has multiple touchdown passes in every game this season and three touchdown passes in each of his past three games.” Burrow has thrown nine passing touchdowns of 30 yards or more and averages 21.9 fantasy points per game. The second-year quarterback faces a Browns defense that has surrendered 24.39 points per game to Ben Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins over the past five games.
Green Bay Packers running game
Jordan Love, selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, will be the starter for Green Bay against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. As we discovered Wednesday morning, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play this week.
“The Packers have been solid in terms of run blocking, but there’s a chance for more upside coming soon in the form of David Bakhtiari,” writes Walder in his fantasy football quarterback and running back upgrades/downgrades. “It’s unclear if the superstar left tackle will return this week against the Chiefs, but there’s a possibility he might, and that ought to be a lift to the line. Between 2019 and 2020, Bakhtiari ranked No. 1 in run block win rate at tackle. Kansas City’s lowly run stop win rate and 4.7 yards per designed carry allowed are friendly sights for opposing offenses.” The Packers have relied heavily on their running backs this season. This trend should continue with Love under center. A total of 29.9 opportunities (rushing attempts and targets) and 141 total yards were averaged each game. [Aaron] Jones and [AJ] Dillon could help the Packers exceed these averages against the Chiefs.
Playing the matchups
Boston Scott, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Chargers)
“With Miles Sanders on injured reserve, we knew the Eagles would have to adjust their backfield somehow,” writes Field Yates in his waiver wire column. “We just didn’t realize it would involve Kenneth Gainwell hardly playing until garbage time and both Boston Scott and Jordan Howard finding the end zone twice.” Last week against the Lions, Scott rushed 12 times for 60 yards while playing 45% of the snaps. With the Chargers allowing the fifth-most points per game to running backs, Scott is on the RB3/flex radar with upside against a vulnerable Chargers defense that allowed Damien Harris to turn 23 rushing attempts into 80 yards and a touchdown last week.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Cardinals)
“Mitchell has at least 18 touches in all four games he’s played with [Jimmy] Garoppolo as the starter. And usage equals fantasy production, especially for Mitchell,” Berry writes. “In three of his four games this season with 15-plus touches, he has at least 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. Mitchell has a great chance to put up those kind of numbers again this week against an Arizona defense that allows the fourth-most yards per carry (4.7) to opposing running backs this season.” This season, Mitchell has been outstanding. Although he has missed two games, the sixth-round pick is ranked fourth in yards per game, sixth in yards per attempt and 15th in rushing yards.
Van Jefferson, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, WRs, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Titans)
“The Titans may get Kristian Fulton back from IR soon, but in the meantime, it’s been a major struggle and/or rotation at cornerback behind [Janoris] Jenkins,” writes Clay in his exceptional best and worst WR/CB matchups. “Third-round rookie Elijah Molden seems to have found himself a home in the slot, but he’s allowed a ton of production and Tennessee has, in turn, allowed the most fantasy points to the slot both this season and over the past month. [Greg] Mabin was playing on the perimeter opposite Jenkins but was benched late against the Colts last week. Tennessee has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to right perimeter receivers (Jenkins’ side), but the most to left perimeter receivers (Mabin and friends’ side). Woods aligns on Jenkins’ side more than any other Rams receiver, but he’ll still see the other Titans’ corners roughly 60% of the time. Woods, Jefferson (76% perimeter) and Kupp (66% slot) can all be upgraded against the defense allowing the most targets, receptions, receiving yards, end zone targets and fantasy points to wide receivers this season.”
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Saints)
Gage should fare well against Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Paulson Adebo, according to Clay. In last week’s game against the Panthers, he played 68% of the snaps and wasn’t targeted. You feel nauseated at the thought of having Gage in your lineup, but with Calvin Ridley gone, he should see some targets. Quarterback Matt Ryan cannot afford to overlook this matchup.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Vikings)
“Brown has scored a touchdown in five of seven games this season, and he has also produced at least one explosive-play reception (20 or more yards) in every game,” Bowen wrote in his film room column.
“Look, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been scheming up Lamar Jackson this season to attack split-safety coverage. Lift the top of the secondary, create a vertical coverage void to target. And that’s exactly what Brown will see in Week 9 from the Vikings’ defense. Cover 2, Quarters, Cover 6. I like Brown as an upside WR2 in non-PPR formats, but I’d also feel pretty good starting him in my PPR leagues. Deep crossers, in-breakers and the shot-play throws in which Roman can get Brown isolated on a safety.” Against this defense, Amari Cooper, DJ Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Rashard Higgins and DK Metcalf have averaged 10 targets, six receptions, 86 receiving yards and 17.12 points over the past five games.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins (vs. Texans)
“In the three games since Tua Tagovailoa returned, Gesicki is averaging 16.9 PPG and has a 17% target share and 85% catch rate over the same stretch,” Berry writes. “The good times should roll on this week against a Texans defense that allows the sixth-most PPG to tight ends and is tied for the most touchdowns allowed to tight ends this season.”
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears (at Steelers)
In terms of total completions, Fields’ past two games were his best. Fields has thrown touchdown passes in three of his past four games. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards in Week 8. In addition, Fields carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards in his best fantasy-point performance (27.1) of his young career. With the Bears providing him more opportunities as a rusher, he makes for an attractive streaming option this week against the Steelers. Over the past five games, Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed Baker Mayfield, Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow to average 18.7 points per game. I wrote about him in my streaming and last-minute pickups column as someone who could surpass that mark in Week 9.
Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers (at Chiefs)
“The Packers’ pass-catching group (outside of Robert Tonyan) is getting healthier and Love will have a full complement of targets to throw to in what is a fantastic offensive environment against the Chiefs,” Zeidenfeld writes in his DFS best buys. “While the spread on this game jumped from a pick’em to Kansas City being favored by a touchdown, the over/under merely shifted by a single point. That leaves this matchup with the highest total of the entire slate.”
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins (vs. Texans)
“Since Malcolm Brown went on IR, Gaskin has seen a very similar workload to what he saw for all of 2020,” writes Zeidenfeld. “My expectation for Gaskin this week is 13 to 17 carries, three to six targets and a heightened TD expectation against a Houston defense that has allowed a touchdown on a league-high 32.6% of drives. The Texans are also allowing a league-high 2.6 yards after contact to opposing running backs, which bodes well for Gaskin. He has had a 15-plus-yard touch in six of eight games this season.”
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills (at Jaguars)
Last week, Davis caught four of five targets for 29 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. He tied his season high in targets (5) as the Bills used more four-wide-receiver sets (this trend should continue while Dawson Knox is out). In terms of passing yards (276.3) and attempts (39.3), Buffalo ranks sixth in both categories. With the Jacksonville Jaguars allowing the seventh-most points per game to receivers, Davis should see a similar volume of targets this week and is someone I recommended in my streaming/late pickups column.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (at Dolphins)
“Few defenses have struggled to contain opposing wide receivers like the Dolphins have,” writes Cockcroft. “They have seen nine different wide receivers score 15-plus PPR fantasy points against them, and six of those have occurred in the past four weeks alone: Antonio Brown (31.4 points) and Mike Evans (29.3) in Week 5, Marvin Jones Jr. (23.0) in Week 6, Russell Gage (16.7) in Week 8 and Cole Beasley (21.0) and Stefon Diggs (15.0) in Week 9. Cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham have particularly struggled in coverage, affording the position a combined 109.4 PPR fantasy points on 57 targets during that time, so Cooks shouldn’t have trouble finding space regardless of which defender he’s aligned against, though Howard might well shadow him in this game. Cooks’ 29% target share for the season says he should get plenty of opportunities to pile up the stats this week.”
Josiah Deguara, TE, Green Bay Packers (at Chiefs)
“Robert Tonyan suffered an ACL injury last week and is out for the season. He had 28 targets, 18 receptions and 204 receiving yards through eight games and Deguara will be expected to fill the void,” I wrote in my assessment of Packers’ offense under Jordan Love. “He will face a Chiefs defense that has given up the second-most points to tight ends. On Monday Night Football against the Giants, this defense allowed two touchdowns to Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph, and [Deguara is] someone to stream if you are in a bind at the TE position.”
Injuries of note
Quarterbacks: Questionable but expected to play
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Quarterbacks: Questionable but likely game-day decisions
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Quarterbacks: Ruled out
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Running backs: Questionable but expected to play
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals
Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
Running backs: Questionable but likely game-day decisions
Latavius Murray, Baltimore Ravens
Damien Williams, Chicago Bears
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Wide receivers: Questionable but expected to play
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cleveland Browns
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Sammy Watkins, Baltimore Ravens
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
Kadarius Toney, New York Giants
Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
Wide receivers: Questionable but likely game-day decisions
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots
Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills
Wide receivers: Ruled out
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
Tight ends: Questionable but expected to play
Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos
Tight ends: Questionable but likely game-day decisions
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Tight Ends: Ruled out
Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Big question of the week
Will Justin Fields continue to reward fantasy managers who stick with him?
As the Chicago Bears are 3-5 and in the midst of a horrible season, head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace contemplate their futures. In any case, Fields’ performance last week was a huge boost for his morale. In this week’s road game against the Steelers before the Bears’ bye, we will learn quite a bit about his outlook for the rest of the season and if fantasy managers can trust him as a starter on their fantasy teams.