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Start or Sit? NFL fantasy football tips for Week 9

What players make the cut in this week’s start/sit list?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 of the NFL season is upon us. By now, you probably have a good feel for your fantasy players, but that doesn’t mean every decision of who you should start is easy. Trying to figure out which fringe players to plug into your lineup can be challenging, and picking wrong could be the difference between winning and losing your weekly matchup. To help you out, here at this week’s fantasy start/sit suggestions.

QUARTERBACK

Start’Em

Derek Carr (Raiders) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Week 9 position rank: 14th)

Slow and steady wins the race, and that’s how you can describe Carr’s 2020 fantasy season. The Raiders quarterback hasn’t been lighting it up by any means, but he’s been a consistent performer all year. He’s coming off his worst game of the season with only 111 passing yards, but thanks to a touchdown and some rushing help, he still managed to finish as the no. 21 QB for the week. This week Carr faces a Chargers defense that has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. And with the red hot Justin Herbert on the other side, the game script could dictate a potentially high-scoring affair.

Sit’Em

Drew Brees (Saints) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 9 position rank: 15th)

Similar to Carr, the Saints quarterback has been a solid play this year, with nothing spectacular and nothing horrible. His QB finishes ranges as high as no. 8 to as low as no. 24. But unlike Carr, Brees has a really tough matchup this week. The Bucs defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, and they have recorded at least one interception in each of their last seven games. You have to go all the way back to Week 1 when a quarterback didn’t throw a pick against them, and that quarterback was Brees; however, he only had 160 yards passing and finished with his worst fantasy performance of the season. There’s always a chance that this Brady/Brees matchup turns into a shootout, but just keep in mind that both these defenses are pretty good.

RUNNING BACK

Start’Em

Damien Harris (Patriots) vs. New York Jets (Week 9 position rank: 22nd)

It’s starting to be clear now that Harris is the Patriots workhorse back. In the two games he’s received more than 10 carries, he’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark. That includes last week’s 16 carries for 102 yards, plus a touchdown performance where he finished as the no. 9 scoring running back for the week. Harris faces a Jets team that is decent against the run (11th most fantasy points to RB’s), but the game script should have New England with a lead for most of the contest, and that opens the door for a heavy dose of volume for Harris.

Sit’Em

Jonathan Taylor (Colts) vs. Baltimore Ravens (Week 9 position rank: 23rd)

Taylor owners got a huge break early when Marlon Mack went down in Week 1, thrusting the rookie running back into a larger role right out of the game. Unfortunately, he hasn’t produced like many fantasy pundits were thinking as he’s only had one game with over 100 yards rushing (Week 2). He’s coming off a 22-yard performance against a Lions team that allows the third-most fantasy points to running backs, and now he’ll be up against a Ravens defense that allows the second-fewest points to the position. Throw in the potpourri of running backs getting touches in Indy (Nyheim Hines and now Jordan Wilkins), and things just don’t look very favorable this week.

WIDE RECEIVER

Start’Em

Chase Claypool (Steelers) vs. Dallas Cowboys (Week 9 position rank: 18th)

If you own a Steelers receiver, you’re going to want to start him as the Cowboys defense is terrible. They’ve allowed monster games to stars like Odell Beckham Jr. (35.9 points) and Tyler Lockett (32.5), as well as strong games for lesser known guys like Christian Kirk (21.6). The opportunity is there for big games from receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, but it’s tricky to guess which one will deliver on any given week. With Smith-Schuster being shadowed by the Cowboys best corner Trevon Digg and Johnson going against the speedy Anthony Brown, look for Claypool to be the prize receiver this week. The Cowboys struggle with misdirection plays and the Steelers should have a field day getting Claypool in space against this defense.

Sit’Em

Amari Cooper (Cowboys) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 9 position rank: 27th)

Sticking with the same game, we’ll go to the other side of the ball. Owners of Cowboys players have been hit with the hard realization that their fantasy outlooks have gone from spectacular to bleak. That’s a hefty price to pay after Dallas lost their star quarterback Dak Prescott. Cooper has been one of the team’s more consistent performers this year with 75+ yards receiving in six of the Cowboys eight games this season. However, he is coming off a game where he only caught one pass for five yards, and considering the Cowboys quarterback carousel continues to swing around with unfavorable passers, things aren’t looking all that great for their receiving group. Expect the Steelers to send a lot of pressure at whomever they have playing quarterback this week.

TIGHT END

Start’Em

T.J. Hockenson (Lions) vs. Minnesota Vikings (Week 9 position rank: 5th)

The second-year tight end continues to prove himself as a viable starting tight end start week in and week out. And after his seven-catch, 65-yard performance against a Colts defense who are the stingiest in the league to opposing tight ends this season, Hockenson is showing that he might be just matchup proof. His average of 10.5 fantasy points per week (in half-PPR scoring formats) actually ranks him fourth best this season for tight ends, trailing only Travis Kelce, George Kittle (out eight weeks), and Darren Waller. And when you factor in that he should be getting a bump in targets due to Kenny Golladay being out, expect another reliable performance this week.

Sit’Em

Mark Andrews (Week 9 position rank: 3rd)

In our weekly installment of “guys you’re not really going to sit” we wanted to highlight a matchup that features one of the league’s top fantasy tight ends. While Andrews has averaged 10 points a game this season (sixth best among all tight ends), he’s in a little bit of a rut. He hasn’t caught more than three balls in each of the last two games and hasn’t had more than 32 yards receiving in those same contests. He hasn’t found the end zone in those games as well. To muddy the waters further, he faces that very-unfriendly-to-tight-ends Colts defense. You’re probably not likely to sit Andrews if you own him, but for those daily fantasy leagues, he’s definitely not a guy you should target.

DEFENSE

Start’Em

New York Giants vs. Washington Football Team (Week 9 position rank: 10th)

Washington’s defense is a great start against the Giants this week, but this dismal NFC East matchup offers a little more goodness in terms of fantasy points. The Giants offense may be second-worst in points scored, but the Washington offense is third-worst. The Giants are second-worst in yards gained, Washington is third-worst. And while Daniel Jones’ ball security are well known, let’s not pretend that Kyle Allen is “mister careful” out there. This game could end up being tough to watch with most of the good plays coming from the defensive side of the ball.

Sit’Em

Chicago Bears vs. Tennessee Titans (Week 8 position rank: 12th)

The Bears have a good defense, both in fantasy and reality. They have three top seven finishes on the year. But this week they run into a sneaky-poor matchup against a Titans defense that allows the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing teams this year. They are top six in both points scored and yards gained, they don’t turn the ball over, and there have been four instances this year where the opposing defense finished with negative points against them. Even that strangling Steelers defense finished as DEF no. 23 when they faced them in Week 7. I’d look for better options than Da’ Bears D this week.