By Stephen Johnson–
(CBS) “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em” is a breakdown of some of the best and worst fantasy football matchups to help you navigate setting your lineups for the week.
Week 9 signals the second consecutive week of six teams hitting the bye, with notable names such as Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Jordan Howard and Rob Gronkowski getting a week off this time. On top of the bye-heavy week, an unusually busy NFL trade deadline has given a boost to some player values for Sunday and beyond.
Bye weeks: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England and Pittsburgh.
START – Jared Goff, Rams (at Giants) There’s something about road games that has brought out the best in Goff this year, to the tune of a 6:0 touchdown/interception ratio in three games, all of which the Rams came away with the victory. The Giants have struggled against quarterbacks this year, ranking 28th against the position. The matchup comes with an added bonus for Goff, as cornerback Janoris Jenkins won’t suit up Sunday after being suspended for breaking team rules. The major void left by Jenkins will make it difficult for the Giants to stop Goff from becoming their sixth opponent to finish in the QB1 tier.
SIT – Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. Ravens) The 2017 season hasn’t been a kind one for Mariota, who continues to battle nagging injuries coming off the bye week. After showing significant progress in his sophomore season, Mariota has posted just one start with multiple touchdowns this season with a matchup against Baltimore’s dominant defense looming. The Ravens are one of three teams to allow fewer than 200 yards passing per game, rank second in interceptions with 12 and second in points allowed to quarterbacks. Mariota could rediscover the mobility factor that has made him a threat, but don’t count on it happening.
START – Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (vs. Falcons) The Falcons’ efforts against pass-catching backs have been subpar this season, to say the least, as they’ve allowed five games of at least seven catches to the position. Enter McCaffrey, who’s on pace for 98 receptions this season, which would place him just shy of the NFL’s all-time rookie reception record of 101 set by Anquan Boldin. Not only is McCaffrey gunning for the rookie record, but he trails only the Steelers’ Antonio Brown and the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry for the league lead in the category. With the shocking trade of Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo, this opens the door for more targets for McCaffrey this week both out of the backfield and in the slot, where he lines up in 30 percent of his snaps.
SIT – C.J. Anderson, Broncos (at Eagles) Anderson’s days of ruling the Bronco backfield may be limited after Denver’s 29 carries were split 15/8/6 among Anderson, Charles and Booker this past week. Brock Osweiler gets the start at quarterback as the Broncos can only hope to inject any kind of life into their offense and, in turn, open the running game. Regardless of Osweiler’s play, this week’s matchup is a difficult one to get Anderson up and running. Outside of Kareem Hunt in Week 2, Philadelphia hasn’t allowed a single running back to eclipse 38 yards in a game. To put into perspective how good the Eagles have been, they allow a minuscule 43.5 rushing yards per game, which puts them on pace for 696 yards for the season. The next closest? The Broncos at 62.4 yards per game.
START – Marvin Jones Jr., Lions (at Packers) Jones returns to the scene of the crime where he put up the best stat line of his career — 205 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a 2016 matchup — when the Lions take on the Packers at Lambeau on Monday night. This game also comes at a time when Jones looks to be running on all cylinders, as he ranks first among all wide receivers in both total and red-zone targets in the last two weeks while averaging 112 receiving yards. Green Bay has struggled against receivers as the season has progressed, allowing an average of 40 PPR points to the position over their past three games. It won’t get any easier against Jones on Monday.
SIT – Amari Cooper, Raiders (at Dolphins) Recency bias had a lot of fantasy owners immediately plugging Cooper back into their lineups last week, for good reason. If you play in PPR leagues, the result wasn’t terrible, but in standard scoring he rewarded owners with 4.8 points. This week should be another rough go against the Dolphins, who can hang their hat on defending wide receivers if not much else. Allowing the ninth-fewest points to the position overall, Miami surrenders an average of eight receptions and 98 yards to the position at home – placing it among the top three fewest in the league in both categories.
START – Jack Doyle, Colts (at Texans) One week ago, Doyle put up the biggest fantasy line of any tight end this season against Cincinnati, one of the stingiest defenses against the position. He also happened to be the Week 8 “sit” in this article. This week we pull a 180 and go all-in on the Colts’ big 6-foot-6 receiving target. Ranked 27th against tight ends, Houston has allowed a touchdown or more than 100 yards receiving in four of their last five games. Doyle may not repeat last week’s stat line, but it’s are trending up, as he has 25 receptions in his last three games.
SIT – Tyler Kroft, Bengals (at Jaguars) Kroft has filled in admirably for the injured Tyler Eifert, putting up two TE1 weeks in his last four games. While the Jaguars rank 19th against tight ends, they allow the seventh-fewest yards per game. The pace of the Bengals’ passing game will fall on how well they can keep the Jaguars’ fierce pass rush at bay. The Jacksonville defense has tallied a league-leading 33 sacks and now faces a not-so-great Cincinnati offensive line, which will challenge Andy Dalton’s ability to get the ball to Kroft if he needs the big target to stay in on pass protection.
Stephen Johnson is 670 The Score’s 2017 Fantasy Football Expert winner. He’s a weekly guest on “Chicago’s Fantasy Football Today,” every Sunday morning during football season from 8.a.m.-9 a.m. CT on WSCR-670 and 670thescore.com/listen. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Roto.