Just because a player is listed as a “fade” doesn’t mean they are automatic sits. As the adage goes, “Always start your stars.” What a “bust” designation does mean, however, is that you’ll want to consider higher upside options in the flex.
Welcome to Week 9, where we’re back to bye weeks and you’re forced to send several of your top fantasy options to the bench as you anxiously await their return. Between injuries and the number of fantasy stars unavailable to you because of those bye weeks, the right fantasy decisions will be crucial approaching the playoffs. Here’s Week 9’s list of players to temper expectations for.
There aren’t many options you’d consider over Justin Herbert in most weeks, let alone Week 9 where four of the year’s top-13 scoring quarterbacks in fantasy are on bye and one unlucky fantasy team just lost Kirk Cousins for the season.
Still, it never hurts to be prepared for a potential down week, which is exactly what Herbert is likely to experience up against the Jets secondary.
To date this season, two of the only three games where the Jets have allowed more than 15 fantasy points came in outings where the defense was missing D.J. Reed, who was out in Weeks 5-6 with a concussion, and Sauce Gardner, who missed Week 6 with the same. Even the league’s best quarterbacks have struggled against this unit, with quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen scoring a combined 22 fantasy points in their outings against the Jets, on the back of several turnovers. The Jets have forced two interceptions and two lost fumbles against opposing quarterbacks this season — two more turnovers than they have allowed touchdowns all of this season.
Despite trading to acquire Cam Akers from the LA Rams, the Minnesota Vikings have continued to feed running back Alexander Mattison in recent weeks, even if he hasn’t been efficient. Don’t expect a cure for that efficiency in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, however. With the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury and rookie Jaren Hall set to get the start, it’s reasonable to expect that this crew will lean heavily on the run — and the Falcons likely know it too.
This Atlanta defense is already allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, yet to allow a single running back more than 15 fantasy points this year, holding studs like Travis Etienne Jr. and Jahmyr Gibbs to just under nine fantasy points a piece in their respective games against this unit. They remain one of two defenses this season yet to allow a single rushing touchdown to a running back, holding opposing rushers to just 3.8 yards per carry and the seventh-lowest explosive run rate in the league.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard is due for some positive regression in the touchdown department, coming off his worst fantasy performance of the season as the RB44 in Week 9. Unfortunately, fantasy managers shouldn’t expect any of that to improve this week up against the Eagles’ defensive line. To date this season, the Eagles are allowing just 3.8 yards per attempt and a league-low 2.1 yards after contact per attempt. Philadelphia ranks as a top-10 rushing defense in most metrics including explosive run rate allowed (9.4%) and a league-low 29 first downs allowed rushing.
As a testament to the Eagles’ strengths against the run, they’ve faced just 22 rush attempts against a stacked box on the season. That shows just how fearful opposing offenses have been against this defensive line, especially considering the league average sits at just over 70. Don’t expect the Cowboys to attack the Eagles on the ground in Week 8 — at least, not effectively — which will likely end in a disappointing showing for Pollard’s fantasy managers.
This matchup against the Houston Texans isn’t a great one for any of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers, but Chris Godwin is the greater liability for a bust week considering his lower rate of touchdown conversions so far this season. Going up against the Texans, who are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers so far this season, Godwin will have an uphill battle to a big fantasy day.
Though Godwin had primarily played out of the slot over the past four seasons, he’s played mostly out wide so far in 2023, which is unfortunate considering the slot seems to be one point of weakness for this Texans secondary. Houston is allowing the second-lowest passing touchdown percentage in the league to date this season at 1.9%, having allowed just five passing touchdowns all season, with just two of those having been allowed to wide receivers. Godwin may put up a decent enough outing to suffice as a flex play, but this matchup isn’t one in which you should expect him to reach his ceiling.
Fantasy football managers may have rushed to the waiver wire to pick up rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston following a promising outing against the Chicago Bears that resulted in a season-high six targets. Johnston caught five of those for 50 receiving yards, which has been the most promising sign of momentum he’s shown to date, but fantasy managers will want to exercise caution before trotting him out against the New York Jets defense.
As noted above, this Jets secondary, when they’ve had their top cornerbacks available, has been a challenging one for passers to overcome. They’re forcing the third-highest interception rate at 3.8% while also achieving pressure on nearly 44% of opposing dropbacks — the second-highest rate in the league. The Jets are tying for the ninth-highest contested target percentage this season, an area where Johnston has struggled to this point, having caught just one of six contested targets so far for the team’s worst contested catch rate.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride stepped up against a challenging Baltimore Ravens defense in Week 8 to finish as the overall TE2 (half-PPR) on the week … but can he do it twice in a row? Not only will McBride face the challenge of adapting to a new quarterback under center this week, following the trade of Joshua Dobbs to the Minnesota Vikings, but he and rookie Clayton Tune — who’s set for his first career start this season (unless Kyler Murray is surprisingly activated for this game) — will have to navigate that challenge up against the Cleveland Browns defense.
The Browns have allowed just 133 total yards and two touchdowns to opposing tight ends through seven games this season, allowing the second-fewest expected points added (EPA) on targets to the tight end position. This matchup is one that even the league’s most proven veterans would want to avoid, but given McBride’s inexperience as a second-year tight end and an even less experienced quarterback throwing to him, he’ll need a lot of help in Week 9.