As we arrive at the midway point of the fantasy football season, making start ’em and sit ’em decisions begin to carry even more weight as teams separate themselves from the pack. With not all matchups being equal, here are our top start ’em and sit ’em plays for Week 9 of fantasy football.
NFL Start’ Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 9: Quarterbacks
While the focus in the majority of fantasy leagues falls on skill positions, quarterbacks in most cases bring the highest weekly total. Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in Week 9?
Start ‘Em | Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Once Joe Burrow got a few games in and knew he could trust his surgically repaired knee, nothing has been able to stop this Bengals passing offense. Burrow has been about as consistent as it gets. Over the last six games, Burrow has finished as a QB1 (top 12) in four games and is the only quarterback to have thrown for 2+ touchdowns in every game this season.
In this interdivisional clash, the Bengals have a solid matchup against the Cleveland Browns. For as vaunted as we thought this defense would be, they’re currently allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to QBs at 20.81 and are fourth in passing TDs with 17. Burrow is a must-start in Week 9 and comes in as a lower-end QB1.
Sit ‘Em | Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
It was one thing for Matt Ryan to survive the absence of Julio Jones. For as great as he is, he had Calvin Ridley, an elite No. 1 option for the Falcons. But as we all know, Ridley has chosen to step away from the game to take care of his mental health and will be out for an unknown period of time. What we do know is the Falcons have a game on Sunday, and this wide receiver room might now be the worst in the NFL.
Ryan is averaging just 17.1 points per game, and the Saints are allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (15.19) and the No. 2-ranked team in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric). He’s coming off a sub-150-yard game in Week 8, and it’s likely he struggles again. Given how many quality options there are in 1QB leagues, Ryan should not be in starting contention in Week 9.
While these RBs found themselves with adjusted roles following injuries to surrounding players and poor play from others, they are on opposite sides of start/sit debates for Week 9. Let’s take a look at two RBs to pay particular attention to.
Start ‘Em | Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
No doubt about it, Myles Gaskin’s season has been as up and down as it gets. Gaskin carried the ball 12 times for 36 yards against the Bills and hauled in 3 of 4 targets for an additional 19 yards through the air. But that was against the Bills. And the last time I checked, the Houston Texans are not the Buffalo Bills, but I’ll let one of you correct me on this.
With Malcolm Brown on the IR, Gaskin has seen usage more akin to last season when he averaged 18.3 touches per game. Over the last two weeks, Gaskin has rushed 27 times and has seen 4 targets in back-to-back outings. The Texans have allowed a league-high 1,185 rushing yards and over 100 yards in five straight games. I’ll start Gaskin as a mid-range RB2, which is about as much as could be expected from him this season.
Sit ‘Em | Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
I want Kenneth Gainwell to be a thing. He was fantastic at Memphis and arguably the top pass-catching back of the 2021 NFL Draft class. But right now, I could not be further out on Gainwell based on what we are seeing from the Eagles.
For one, the split last week is awful. Boston Scott had 12 carries for 60 yards with 2 touchdowns. And in his first game, Jordan Howard also saw 12 rushes for 57 yards with 2 of his own scores. But what is more troubling for me is Gainwell saw just 6 snaps in the first three quarters. The Eagles have the Chargers this week, and while they are No. 28 in points allowed to RBs (27.49), there’s no way I can trust Gainwell in Week 9.
NFL Start’ Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 9: Wide Receivers
The WR position is the deepest position in fantasy football, with a plethora of quality starting options to choose from every single week. As matchups can be the final deciding factor, here are some of the start ’em or sit ’em recommendations for Week 9.
Start ‘Em | Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams
Matchups matter. Plain and simple. Sure, the Los Angels Rams are good enough to beat anyone, but when you have a three-game stretch of Detroit, Houston, and now Tennessee, that’s about as easy as it gets. Good players take advantage of these matchups, and that’s what you are seeing with Van Jefferson.
Jefferson has recorded 7 receptions on 13 targets over the last two games while recording 131 yards and a score. He’s finished as the WR20 and WR31, and with the Rams having released DeSean Jackson, Jefferson is a locked-in option on the highest-octane offense in the NFL. No team allowed more points to WRs than the Titans (47.46), and in a game where the Rams are heavy favorites, Jefferson is a sneaky WR3 for fantasy managers to start in Week 9.
Sit ‘Em | DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
I’m officially worried about DeVonta Smith. While he has seen 9+ targets in three of his last five games, Smith has posted more than 60 yards just twice. He has yet to score since Week 1 and is coming off a new season-low yardage total in Week 8. He caught just 1 of 3 targets for 15 yards as the Eagles passed a mere 14 times in a blowout win over the Detroit Lions.
Smith has finished as a WR2 or better in just two contests, while he’s been the WR71 or worse in four. The Chargers rank No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers at only 26.0 per game and have surrendered just 4 TDs all season. Better days are ahead, but I believe there are safer options for Week 9.
It’s notoriously hard for fantasy managers to find consistent production from the tight end position. In Week 9, start ’em or sit ’em decisions could mean the difference between a win or a loss as the margins are razor-thin.
Start ‘Em | Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
MUUUUTTTTHHHH! You can still hear the echoes reverberating around Heinz Field today. That’s when you know the Black and Gold has embraced a player. Pat Freiermuth is the second coming of Heath Miller and has turned into Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target since the team lost JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Freiermuth caught 4 of 7 targets for 44 yards and a game-winning touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. It was his second game in a row with 7 targets. If I’m looking for a streaming option to start in Week 9, Freiermuth is one of the top options. The Bears are a problematic matchup for TEs, but the volume and involvement in the passing game are too much to pass up in Week 9.
Sit ‘Em | Evan Engram, New York Giants
Evan Engram has a solid matchup in Week 9 against the Las Vegas Raiders. But can we even trust him? Even in a good matchup last week against the Chiefs (No. 32 vs. TEs), Engram caught 3 of 4 targets for 15 yards. It was the red-zone touchdown that salvaged his day.
He has recorded more than 45 yards just once. I can’t trust him in Week 9, and I’ll be sitting Engram this week.