Aside from a few standout performances (shoutout to C.J. Stroud), this was a low-scoring week of fantasy football. It may have just been me, but the teams I felt the most confidence in ended up being the worst this week, while teams full of streaming options exploded (thank you, Gus Edwards). That’s just the nature of this game we love, though. All we can do is try and analyze Week 9’s action and be ready for next week. Let’s get into it.
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs
- Outside of Travis Kelce, no Chief ran more than Justin Watson’s 25 routes on 35 Patrick Mahomes dropbacks (71% participation). Especially given that this offense is not as efficient as the Mahomes/Andy Reid offenses we are used to, no Chiefs WR is worth starting.
- I have seen, and considered myself, arguments for selling Raheem Mostert high, given the impending return of electric rookie De’Von Achane. Especially with Mostert already down to just over a 50% snap share, there is certainly reason for concern, as Achane is bound to demand some touches. But when Achane first emerged, it was more of an issue for Salvon Ahmed (a healthy scratch in Week 5) than Mostert, who still averaged double-digit carries during Achane’s three-game explosion. While he is unlikely to maintain his top-five RB status, Mostert should still be at least a solid RB2 for the rest of the season.
- It didn’t translate to much fantasy production, but Isiah Pacheco set new season highs in each of snaps (70%), rush share (76%), and route participation (54%). However, the increases over his previous averages in each number almost directly match up with the usual averages of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was out with an illness. Assuming CEH is back going forward, expect Pacheco to return to his normal usage.
Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons
- What Joshua Dobbs did this week was absolutely incredible, and he is now the fantasy QB9. However, he is just the QB18 in PPG (admittedly behind multiple players who have missed or will miss significant time). On the bright side, he is third at the position in designed runs and now has better weapons than he had in Arizona. But in normal 1-QB leagues, I don’t see the Passtronaut as more than a streaming option or high-floor backup.
- It’s in a very small sample size, but Taylor Heinicke’s ADOT is 10.4 — more than any qualified QB this season (although lower than Will Levis’ absurd 11.4). However, not at all unrelatedly, his 55.9% completion percentage is lower than all those same quarterbacks except P.J. Walker. Consider him a slight improvement from Desmond Ridder for the fantasy outlook of the Falcons’ weapons, but only slight.
- With Cam Akers done for the season with a torn Achilles, Alexander Mattison should return to true workhorse status. In the three weeks before Akers’ Vikings debut, Mattison had a 76% snap share and an 82% rush share and saw five targets a game. Of course, he averaged just 10.1 Half-PPR points despite that juicy workload, and the Vikings’ offense is much worse off without Kirk Cousins. But they may also be more run-heavy, and Mattison should be able to volume his way to RB2 numbers.
Seattle Seahawks @ Baltimore Ravens
- Keaton Mitchell exploded this week, and it wasn’t just in garbage time. The rookie was involved in the second quarter when this was still a one-score game, racking up four straight carries of at least eight yards on one drive. With just a 17% snap share, he’s still a long way from being a startable option, but he’s certainly worth stashing.
- I’ve been down on Jaxon Smith-Njigba for Redraft leagues, but an 88% route participation rate and 33% target share with both D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett healthy is hugely encouraging. However, the Seahawks played 11 personnel on by far a season-high 79% of snaps while playing from behind essentially the whole game. I’m more optimistic about JSN than I was last week, but he still needs to earn significant snaps in two-WR sets to be worth considering.
- He scored two more touchdowns and broke a big run, but Gus Edwards, not Justice Hill, was the big loser from Mitchell’s emergence. Edwards played just 19% of snaps, saw only five carries, and ran just seven routes. There’s a chance this was a one-week blip due to the blowout, but with usage that bad (and the production to hide it), it’s not worth waiting to see — sell Edwards for anything you can get.
Arizona Cardinals @ Cleveland Browns
- Jonathan Gannon said this week that James Conner looks “excellent,” although his other comment that Conner was “getting faster” did not sound as positive as I have seen some on Twitter painting it. Still, Conner is likely to return from the IR soon and is a great trade target if you are looking likely to make the fantasy playoffs.
- Jerome Ford is the Browns’ lead RB, with 64% of snaps and 27 opportunities to Kareem Hunt’s 17 this week. However, the veteran is the clear preferred option in the red zone. Hunt has five goalline carries to Ford’s one, and nine to his one within the 20. With this split, both will have relatively similar values going forward.
- I’m not particularly worried about Elijah Moore playing a season-low 62% snap share in the Browns’ first week without Donovan Peoples-Jones. He was still second on the team with an 82% route participation rate, meaning he mostly missed snaps at the end as the Browns salted the game away. Of course, he is averaging just 5.1 points per game, so it’s not like you can trust him in fantasy anyway.
Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers
- Don’t panic on either Cooper Kupp or Puka Nacua. Matthew Stafford avoided IR and should be back soon, and they have still combined for 62% of the Rams’ targets since Kupp’s return to the field in Week 5.
- Do panic on Green Bay’s receivers. There is absolutely no one in this WR group whom you can trust on a weekly basis. I hedged after Week 7 that Christian Watson might be an exception, but with zero games over three catches and just one over 40 yards after four healthy(ish) weeks, he doesn’t belong anywhere near lineups either.
- As of today, Kyren Williams will already reportedly be back with the Rams when he is eligible to return in Week 12 (can you believe Week 12 is just a couple weeks away?). He joins fellow NFC West RB Conner on the “RB2 to target if you’re feeling good about making playoffs” list.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Houston Texans
- Last week, I said C.J. Stroud was unlikely to reach his ceiling if the Texans continued to be inept on the ground; clearly, I was wrong. Houston essentially abandoned the run this week and let their rookie star cook, resulting in an insane 470-yard five-TD performance. That will almost certainly be the high point of his rookie year, but Stroud showing a real week-winning ceiling moves him from a streaming option to the every-week QB1 conversation.
- Despite his huge week, I’m not interested in Cade Otton. Prior to this week, he had ZERO weeks as a top-12 tight end. Adding him now, especially heading into two tough matchups, is just chasing points.
- If you’re in a deep league and want a ticket on the C.J. Stroud hype train, consider Robert Woods. The veteran has been out for a few weeks with a foot issue but was actually the Texans’ leader in both routes and targets through his first five healthy weeks. I don’t expect him to be the top target with Nico Collins and Tank Dell both breaking out, but he should at the very least take the WR3 role that Noah Brown just turned into 153 yards and a score.
Washington Commanders @ New England Patriots
- With Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker sidelined, the Patriots’ route leader was … Mike Gesicki? The former Dolphins “tight end” posted an 87% route participation rate, 25% more than his previous season high. It resulted in a fat goose egg on just one target, but this is absolutely worth monitoring. Gesicki’s usage as essentially a big slot WR has always been ideal for fantasy; he has just lacked the snaps. If he is still heavily involved with Parker back, he will be worth adding, and I’ll be stashing him in some deep TE-friendly leagues in case his role actually leads to production in Week 10.
- Sam Howell is the fantasy QB6 (12th in PPG). However, he has played just two games against teams that are not above-average matchups for the QB position. In those two games, he scored 10.06 fantasy points … combined. He has below-average matchups for each of the next three weeks, as well as in both Week 16 and Week 17 (the fantasy semifinals and finals). With a league-leading 39.2 attempts per game, I don’t think he will ever be as bad as his 0.6-point dud against the Bills again, but I would not feel at all comfortable with Howell as my QB1 moving forward.
- Not only did Demario Douglas run the most routes of any Patriots WR, but only 36% of them came out of the slot. That’s a great sign for his value going forward, and he is absolutely worth rostering, although it bears watching whether he or Parker is the WR1 upon the veteran’s return.
Indianapolis Colts @ Carolina Panthers
- Eight targets doesn’t sound that impressive, but Michael Pittman had an absurd 36% target share this week following Josh Downs’ early exit with a knee injury. If Downs misses extended time, Pittman could push for WR1 consideration as the only real target on this Colts offense.
- This is officially Chuba Hubbard’s backfield. Frank Reich said it would be all week, and then the stats backed him up, as Hubbard played 40% more snaps and saw 11 more opportunities than Miles Sanders. The state of this offense makes him no more than a flex play, but that’s still something.
- I hope you traded for Jonathan Taylor this week while fantasy Twitter panicked about Zack Moss’ continued involvement. With a 75% snap share, 11 more carries than Moss, and five targets, JT is officially back in a workhorse role. His efficiency is still not at all what we’re used to seeing from him, but he should be able to maintain at least high-end RB2 production.
New York Giants @ Las Vegas Raiders
- I was so excited about Wan’Dale Robinson’s usage following Darren Waller’s injury last week that I put him in the headline of this article. I jumped the gun. He did score a touchdown, but the sophomore posted his lowest route participation rate since Week 3 at 52%. The only Giants WR above even 64% in that metric was Darius Slayton (90%), who also led the team with seven targets. Slayton doesn’t have the upside or bring the excitement that Robinson or Jalin Hyatt would as the team’s top WR, but he’s worth adding in deeper leagues. The rest of this group, Robinson and Hyatt included, is barely rosterable.
- Speaking of exciting young players trending in the wrong direction, Michael Mayer’s 60% route participation rate was almost as bad as Robinson’s, and he only ran five more routes than fellow TE Austin Hooper. A late-season rookie breakout doesn’t seem to be on the cards for the 35th-overall pick.
- Are you in any super-deep 2-QB or Superflex leagues where every starting QB is on a roster? Consider throwing a dart at Matt Barkley, currently on the Giants’ practice squad, or even NFC East veteran Carson Wentz. With both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor on IR, the Giants simply can’t keep rolling out Tommy DeVito … I think.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
- Dallas Goedert is going to miss time with a fractured forearm. In 2022, when Goedert missed five games, Smith’s numbers didn’t change as much as you might think, as he saw just a 0.4% higher target share (0.6 more targets per game). He did average 20 more yards per game, thanks to 40 more air yards per game, as his ADOT jumped from 9.0 to 13.5. But do we really think the absence of Goedert (a tight end, and not a deep threat) somehow led to Smith having an ADOT four yards over his average for the rest of the season? Maybe I’m missing something, but this screams coincidence … on the other hand, Smith in 2023 has a lot more room for growth in targets than Smith in 2022. His target share in 2022 was essentially 27% with or without Goedert. In 2023, that number is just 21%, and I do think Goedert missing time should raise that number. So, to make an unnecessarily long story short, Goedert missing time should help Smith perform as the reliable WR2 he was drafted to be … but it has nothing to do with what Smith did with Goedert out last year.
- This is too late to truly be beyond the box scores, as Jake Ferguson just had a huge performance, but I do want to update my take on him. I was down on him early in the season because he was scoring touchdowns despite seeing barely any targets in a part-time role. I still don’t love that he saw more targets this week (10) than he did in the previous three weeks combined (eight), but he at least has an 84%+ route participation rate over the last three weeks, peaking at 89% this week. I still wouldn’t feel comfortable starting him, but it’s not a terrible idea if you’re desperate.
- Tony Pollard had a goal-line TD called back because a lineman didn’t report as eligible this week, and he has now gone 136 touches without finding paydirt. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but my take on him is the same as it has been: He’s nowhere near as efficient as he was in years prior, but his usage (outside of some super weird game scripts) is still elite. If you can stomach it, consider buying low.