NFL Start ’em, Sit ’em Week 9: Can DeVonta Smith be trusted against the Chargers?

With the NFL in full swing and fantasy football lineups being set, who makes the list of the top start 'em and sit 'em options for Week 9?

NFL Start ’em, Sit ’em Week 9: Can DeVonta Smith be trusted against the Chargers?

As we arrive at the midway point of the fantasy football season, making start ’em or sit ’em decisions begin to carry even more weight as teams start to 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, consistently bring the highest weekly total. Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in Week 9?

Start ‘Em | Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

This might be a bit presumptive, but the Saints need to move on quickly in the wake of Jameis Winston tearing his ACL. Reports are Taysom Hill will return from his concussion in Week 9, and according to CBS Sports Insider Josina Anderson, New Orleans is expected to look within “its own QB depth to address the loss.” This should be no surprise as they know what they have with Hill, as do fantasy managers.

In his five starts last season (Weeks 10-14), Hill was a QB1 in four of five games while averaging 23.1 fantasy points per contest in 4-point passing TD leagues. As the full-time starter, there is nothing to suggest Hill would not be a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 once he returns to the team. He would get the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9, who are bottom-five in points allowed to QBs (21.25). I would have no hesitancy starting Hill once he’s activated.

Sit ‘Em | Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

Ryan Tannehill has been shaky this season and — based on offseason expectations — has been disappointing. But after five of six weeks as a QB17 or worse, Tannehill has pulled it back around in his last two games, averaging 267 passing yards, 2.5 passing TDs, and 21.5 fantasy points to finish as a QB1 in back-to-back weeks.

All that changes in Week 9. For starters, the Titans just lost RB Derrick Henry for the season. For a QB like Tannehill who finds success coming off play action, this is massive. Now add in the matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, who already had Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, and Leonard Floyd before adding Von freaking Miller via trade.

Yeah, um, no thanks. I would stay far away from Tannehill in Week 9 and sit every Titans player not named A.J. Brown moving forward.

Running Backs

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. Here are where they fall for Week 9 in fantasy.

Start ‘Em | Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

At this point, Khalil Herbert is a must-start for fantasy. Since Damien Williams went down in Week 4, Herbert has been one of the highest-utilized players in the NFL. Herbert has seen 18 or more touches in four straight games and 70 total opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets) in his last three. Herbert has recorded 388 total yards as the starter while finishing as an RB1 (top-12) in half of his games.

The only downside has been his lack of touchdowns (1). Yet, that comes from the Chicago Bears’ offensive struggles, with only 29.5% of their drives ending in a score (28th). The matchup is not ideal against the Steelers. Never theless, from a pure volume perspective, Herbert needs to be started in Week 9 for fantasy, especially if Justin Fields can play like he did last week.

Sit ‘Em | Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

I know it’s “Overreaction Monday” and all that, but I feel like this is not an overreaction. I’m completely out on Kenneth Gainwell. I’ve seen enough after just four quarters. Now, this is not even directed at Gainwell. I’ve been a big fan of him since he was at Memphis.

This is about the Eagles and head coach Nick Sirianni. I simply can not trust an Eagles RB for fantasy. Sure, Gainwell ended with 13 carries, but the majority of those came when the game was already decided. 

Then you look at the rest of the split. 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.

Keep your plants. Keep your highlighter. I want nothing to do with this backfield. I’m sitting Gainwell and the rest of the Eagles’ RBs in Week 9 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

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 | Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Does Michael Pittman Jr. have your attention now? Pittman Jr. was quietly having a solid season and was on the precipice of breaking out. We are now seeing it happen before our eyes.

Pittman Jr. caught 10 of 15 targets for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns on Sunday and has further solidified himself as a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Related | Week 9 Waiver Wire: Best pickups and targets for fantasy football include Carlos Hyde, DeVante Parker, and Pat Freiermuth

Pittman Jr. has seen 7+ targets in five games and now has 86+ yards and a touchdown in three of his last four. He is 13th in the NFL in targets (65) and receptions (45), ninth in yards (594), and is now the WR11 in PPR with 129.2 points.

Pittman Jr. is 18th in per-game scoring (16.2), nearly a half-point higher than Stefon Diggs (15.8). In Week 9, the Colts get the Jets, who have allowed eight different receivers to score double-digit points. Pittman Jr. is a locked-in WR2 outside of brutal matchups and should be started every week.

Sit ‘Em | DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

It’s time to panic on DeVonta Smith. Despite seeing 9 or more targets in three of his last five games, Smith has posted more than 60 yards only twice. He has yet to score since Week 1 and is coming off a new season-low 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. Despite the 2021 rookie class of receivers being highly touted coming into the season, the majority have fizzled aside from Ja’Marr Chase. In Week 9, the Eagles face the Los Angeles Chargers who have been a brutal matchup for passing offenses. The Chargers rank No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers at only 26.0 per game. They’ve allowed just 4 receiving touchdowns all season and with Smith already struggling to find the end zone, this could be a long game for the Eagles. 

Tight Ends

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

Pat Freiermuth was everyone’s favorite sleeper for the weekend, and he came through for fantasy managers. 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, and it appears Freiermuth has become the player the Steelers were hoping for as their Heath Miller 2.0.

Freiermuth has stepped in and filled part of the role in the passing game vacated by JuJu Smith-Schuster and will be a solid TE2 moving forward. Even against the Chicago Bears, who are the No. 5 defense vs. TEs over the last four games, Freiermuth deserves starting consideration in Week 9.

Sit ‘Em | Evan Engram, New York Giants

Evan Engram is coming off a season-high 8 targets in Week 7, so you’d think that performance might be a springboard for one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL. But I am not so sure. Engram has benefited from injuries decimating the Giants’ wide receiver corps. When the unit is at full strength (as they’re expected to be in Week 9), it’s likely Engram takes a backseat in this offense.

Engram has topped 45 receiving yards just once, and even in a decent matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, I have a difficult time recommending Engram for anyone outside of deep leagues. I would sit Engram in Week 9 and try to find a TE in a better matchup.

Tommy Garrett is the Senior Fantasy Football Analyst at Pro Football Network. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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