Ten Things We Learned in Week 9 (Fantasy Football)

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Another week chock-full of surprises is in the books and fantasy managers across the globe are scrambling to find the right pieces to their respective puzzles. Players returning from injury and others going down continue to shake the fantasy landscape, but not to fear, The Fantasy Footballers are here to help us sort through the debris. The fantasy playoffs are fast approaching and it’s time to buckle down and ready our lineups for the stretch run. Here are some of the bigger storylines to pay close attention to coming out of a wild and wacky Week 9 of football.

1. No Stafford, Yes Problems

With Brett Rypien under center, the Rams were only able to muster three points on Sunday against the Packers. No Rams player made contributions to fantasy teams, in large part due to Rypien’s inability to move the ball down the field. Fantasy stalwart Cooper Kupp had just two catches for 48 yards. Puka Nacua, who was a WR1 heading into the contest, finished with three catches for 32 yards. Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson Jr. combined for 51 rushing yards on 22 carries. Benching players like Kupp and Nacua is agonizing, but if Matthew Stafford remains out, those players should remain out of fantasy lineups.

2. Joshua Dobbs to the Rescue

Whether you are a fan of the Minnesota Vikings or not, watching Joshua Dobbs come into the game and lead his team to victory over the Falcons was a beautiful sight to watch. He just joined the team that same week after being traded by the Cardinals and he wasn’t expected to play, nor did he even know all of his teammates’ names. Yet he came in and put up QB1 numbers to the tune of two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Dobbs had played well this season in Arizona, but I think he’s going to be even better in Minnesota surrounded by better talent and a team making a playoff push. For fantasy, Dobbs becomes a solid play in SuperFlex leagues, and with a favorable schedule coming up could even be in play as a streaming option in standard leagues. It’s also great news for Jordan Addison and Justin Jefferson when he returns, but it favors tight end T.J. Hockenson the most. Dobbs was hyper-targeting the TE position in Arizona, first with Zach Ertz and then Trey McBride. He did the same on Sunday with Hockenson, who saw a team-high 12 targets. Hockenson was already having a good season as the TE3, but his numbers should skyrocket the rest of the way.

3. Zach Charbonnet Is on the Way

For the second straight week, Zach Charbonnet out-snapped Kenneth Walker III. Walker still got the majority of the backfield carries and neither player was able to succeed much in a blowout loss to the Ravens, but it’s worth noting that the rookie RB is starting to see more action. Charbonnet truthers have been calling for this all season, but Walker’s exceptional play has kept his counterpart at bay. But after two underwhelming performances in a row by Walker, could we see the shift finally happening? He could be worth trading for now before the breakout happens.

4. Reenergized Raiders Offense Bodes Well for Fantasy

The Las Vegas Raiders looked like a completely different team in their 30-6 win over the Giants on Sunday. Granted, they defeated an undermanned Giants team, but the pep in their step was noticeable. It really feels like former head coach Josh McDaniels was holding this team back. Rookie QB Aidan O’Connell didn’t throw for a ton of yards or for a touchdown, but he was efficient and didn’t turn the ball over. This allowed Josh Jacobs to get prime scoring opportunities and he finished with 98 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Davante Adams didn’t have a big day for fantasy, but after the game, he spoke to the media and said, “Do I want to catch more balls? Of course. This isn’t about me, it’s about the team. My whole want to catch more balls is to turn 30 into 40 or 50.” Adams has the right attitude and with a revitalized offense, he could be poised for a strong close to the 2023 campaign.

5. Don’t Panic with Pollard

It hasn’t been a bad season for Tony Pollard, per se, but he hasn’t lived up to the early second-round draft spot where he was selected in fantasy drafts. The current RB18, Pollard has put up single-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games and hasn’t been able to get going on the ground even when the Cowboys are blowing out their opponents. The good news is the schedule is very favorable for the rest of the way. There are some easier matchups on the docket, so I’m predicting a second-half surge for Pollard and the Cowboys’ offense as a whole.

6. Texans Pass-Catchers to the Moon

Back in Week 3, I brought up CJ Stroud’s potential ascension and what that would mean for Houston’s passing attack. Stroud is playing better than anyone could have predicted and has turned Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Dalton Schultz into reliable fantasy starters. Collins is currently the WR14, Dell is the WR30, despite missing a game, and Schultz has come on strong of late and is the TE8. Even DFS favorite Noah Brown is in the conversation as a dart-throw play. There should be no more second-guessing, Stroud is a weekly starter as are Collins, Dell, and Schultz.

7. Jonathan Taylor Back to RB1 Status

It finally happened, Jonathan Taylor took over sole possession of the Colts’ backfield. Up until last week, the usage between Taylor and Zack Moss had been pretty even, making both low-end RB2 options. But now with Taylor leading the way (he had 23 opportunities to Moss’ seven on Sunday), he slides comfortably back into the RB1 category and is in the weekly top-five discussion at the position. Managers who gambled on Taylor are going to be even happier in the fantasy playoffs, with delectable matchups against the Steelers, Falcons, and Raiders. Moss isn’t really flex-worthy moving forward but should remain on benches as a high-value insurance policy in case Taylor were to get injured.

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8. Goedert Injury Opens the Door for Smith

DeVonta Smith has had an inconsistent season, fluctuating between WR1 performances and dud games. He had his lowest target share (14.3%) on Sunday. I mentioned in this column a few weeks ago that there were simply too many mouths to feed in Philly. Unfortunately, Dallas Goedert fractured his foreman on Sunday and is expected to be placed on IR, but that is welcoming news to Smith managers. The young WR was at his best last season was Goedert missed time and I’m expecting a similar result this time around. The floor will be higher for Smith over the next few weeks and his ceiling remains one of the highest, making him a valuable WR option for fantasy rosters everywhere.

9. Diontae Johnson‘s Return Hampers George Pickens

Since returning to Pittsburgh’s lineup two weeks ago, Diontae Johnson has commanded 23 targets in two games, equating to 15 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. In that span, George Pickens has seen 10 targets which turned into three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. He had just one catch two weeks ago that happened to go for the score. He had two catches on Sunday for one negative yard. Pickens’ body language hasn’t been great even though the team is winning games. He was seen not celebrating Johnson’s touchdown and he removed social media posts of him in a Steelers uniform (he has since reposted some of them). He’s been a low-end WR2 for most of the season, but things are pointing down for Pickens. Temper exceptions with the second-year wideout moving forward, and feel free to bench him if there are better options out there.

10. Giants’ Fantasy Future

There is still half a season left to play, but it’s clear this is a lost year for the New York Giants. Daniel Jones tore his ACL on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Darren Waller was put on IR and might not return this year. There has been little consistency with the WR group. There’s not much to love here with the Giants, on the field or for fantasy. There’s only one player you can start with certainty – Saquon Barkley. The frightening part is, will the Giants shut him down sooner rather than later with the postseason out of reach? Will he even get the chance to play to his potential with defenses keying in on him? Despite the massive amount of volume he’s been seeing, I am very concerned for the rest of the season. As a Barkley manager, I will try to move off him if I can, but it might be too late.

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