Heavy bye weeks are bad, and they’re here to stay. Starting this weekend and until Week 13 we’ll have four or more teams off the schedule every week. To kick things off, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans are all taking a nap in Week 9. That means that you will need to leave the likes of Michael Thomas, Cooper Kupp, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, Tyler Boyd, Drew Brees, etc. on your bench whether you like it or not. What does that mean? You’ll have tough decisions on which of your usual reserves deserve a start this weekend. So now is the time when you must prove yourself as the best GM of your league by fielding a team full of win-not-kill guys for Week 9.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10- or 12-team league, you must have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Gardner Minshew, JAX (vs HOU, London) - START
It was hard to pass on Minshew in past weeks due to his talent and fantasy value alone, but this weekend that pairs with a perfect matchup against a Texans defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per game (26.5) to quarterbacks. Minshew is currently averaging 21.1 points per contest and has scored between 18.9 and 30.9 points every single week other than in his Week 6 stumble against New Orleans. You won’t believe me, but that makes him the 17th-best fantasy player—every position considered. He threw for 255 and 279 yards in his last two games to go with 76 yards gained on the ground. Add four touchdowns to that, also. Minshew is one of the safest plays, as this game has a good 46.6 total, and Jacksonville enters it as a two-point underdog. Don’t hesitate playing Minshew in any league you happen to be part of and in DFS contests too this weekend.
Derek Carr, OAK (vs DET) - START
Not only does this game have the second-highest total of the slate at 50.5 points, but it also features two of the worst defenses against quarterbacks in the league through Week 8—I’m giving you Carr’s name here, but consider Matthew Stafford a must start this week too.. Getting back to Carr, Oakland’s quarterback is facing a matchup in which he will have both Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller available for the second consecutive game. Since the Week 6 bye, Carr has amassed 578 yards and thrown five touchdowns on a 69% completion rate with a great 10.0 yards per attempt. People will keep saying Carr is boring, and he might be, but not many quarterbacks are giving their owners as many points on a weekly basis as Carr is this season. His average of 17.6 points per game isn’t the highest, but he’s only dropped from the 17-point mark two times while reaching up to 26.3 fantasy points this past week. With the Lions giving up 25 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, Carr could be in for his best game of the year.
Daniel Jones, NYG (vs DAL) - SIT
Danny Dimes is back, isn’t he? Well, considering what he did against Detroit in Week 8 he looked the part. Jones lit up the Lions defense to the tune of 322 yards and four touchdowns for a massive 33.4 fantasy points, the best QB performance of the weekend. And that is where the hype should end. Removing his debut as a starter (41.6 points) and that last game from the calculation, Jones would be averaging 12.6 points per game—on par with Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold or Ryan Fitzpatrick to name a few. Not surprisingly, Jones’ best performances have come against the 27th, 32nd and 26th ranked defenses against quarterbacks in points per game allowed to the position. This weekend’s matchup against Dallas isn’t even remotely that good. The Cowboys rank fifth in that category and give up a ridiculously low 16.7 points per game to quarterbacks. In Week 7, they limited Carson Wentz to 191 yards and just 14.8 fantasy points. They also have three games in which they didn’t surrendered a single score, so you better fade Jones this time.
Ryan Tannehill, TEN (at CAR) - SIT
The Titans finally opted to bench Marcus Mariota in Week 7 and so far so good for them with Tannehill as their starter. They have won the last couple of games and while Tannehill has not looked elite, he has done well. Tannehill’s first effort manning the team was nice as he passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns against a good Chargers defense, but last week’s game against a bad Bucs team should have been much better. He didn’t reach 200 yards passing and could only complete 63% of his passes finishing with a really low 5.8 yards per attempt. Only Jonnu Smith (the team’s backup tight end, mind you) logged more than 43 receiving yards on the day, and the Titans wideout corps did a bunch of nothing. The Panthers’ will be a much tougher defense (they rank ninth in points allowed to the position) to beat than the Bucs’ one. Carolina has not conceded three touchdowns in a game yet and has limited four teams to under 200 yards passing (and Tampa Bay to 208 in Week 2).
Josh Jacobs, OAK (vs DET) - START
Will we ever see Jacobs get the recognition he deserves? Not only as a rookie but among league rushers. Jacobs has run for 620 yards already on 124 attempts, which makes him sixth in total yardage on the ground through Week 8. The next best rookie is David Montgomery with 366 yards, and Jacobs has more yards than Ezekiel Elliott or Marlon Mack on fewer attempts. Although he had it a bit rough last weekend—being a little banged up, it must be said—he enters Week 9 against the Lions with a tasty matchup. Not only is Detroit a cupcake against quarterbacks (read Carr’s blurb above), but they also suffer quite a bit against tailbacks. The Lions are giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs and both the Packers and Vikings torched them for 151 and 160 yards respectively.
Royce Freeman, DEN (vs CLE) - START
As much as I try to avoid backfields with shared workloads, the Broncos have a good matchup ahead and Freeman is slowly but surely starting to eat from Lindsay’s favored position. Last week Freeman was the back to finish with a touchdown in his stat line, which tells me he might be in for more important touches going forward and thus carry more fantasy value. Freeman isn’t near the level of some of the lead-backs in the league and has yet to run for more than 63 yards in a single day, but his ground game paired with his catching prowess makes him a solid weekly play. He’s logged between 34 and 61 rushing yards in his last four games and added 85 receiving yards combined in that same span, adding a couple of touchdowns (both of them in the last two weeks, one in each). The Browns have surrendered 608 yards from scrimmage to running backs in their last three games, four combined touchdowns, and 21.6 or more fantasy points to the backfields of those three teams—including a staggering 47 fantasy points allowed to the 49ers’ rushers in Week 5.
Mark Ingram, BAL (vs NE) - SIT
I’ve always liked Ingram and his move to Baltimore looked incredibly good during the first three weeks of the season. He put up 257 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns during that three-game span, making him one of the best players at the position. From weeks 4 to 7, though, Ingram has logged a combined 213 yards and two scores. Ingram’s production comes almost exclusively on the ground, and in the three games he has reached 50 yards just once with Lamar Jackson leading the way. Jackson continues to hurt Ingram’s fantasy upside and the Patriots won’t help him remedy his issues. New England has the best defense against the run (13.8 fantasy points per game allowed to RBs) and they’ve finished six of their eight games surrendering fewer than 85 yards to backfields. Oh, and they have yet to allow a running back to score a touchdown—that is, either rushing or through the air.
LeSean McCoy, KC (vs MIN) - SIT
McCoy leads the Chiefs in rushing attempts with 69 to Williams’ 48 and has clearly out-performed the latter with 362 yards rushing to Williams’ 100. The truth is, though, that McCoy’s numbers came mostly during the first four games of the year and this has been a tale of two halves for him. In his first four games he’s totaled 214 yards and two scores and in his last four games he’s at 148 yards and no scores. McCoy’s best game from Week 5 on finished at 10.3 fantasy points, much this last week against a bad Green Bay run defense. The Vikings are stout against the run (fifth-fewest fantasy points per game given up to RBs), conceding one touchdown on the ground and only the Packers ran for more than 85 yards against them—all the way back in Week 2.
Chris Conley, JAX (vs HOU, London) - START
Even if D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook end playing this weekend (both have been limited in practices with injuries), it’s Conley’s time. I might die alone on Conley’s island, but I like him that much. Chark and Westbrook will be a little banged up, which should boost Conley’s chances of putting up a great game. In games where he’s been targeted five or more times, Conley has put up fantasy scores of 11.3 (twice), 20.3, and 21.7 points. Just this past weekend against the Jets he caught four passes on seven targets for 103 yards (yes, that is 14.7 yards per target) and a touchdown. He’s not touchdown dependent and with greater usage, he can easily reach 20 fantasy points. Not only are the Texans giving up 43.1 points per game to the position (worst in the league), but they have also allowed wideouts to score two or more touchdowns in five of their last six games while surrendering 204-plus receiving yards in their last two contests.
D.K. Metcalf, SEA (vs TB) - START
Both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are go-to plays this week, but I’m profiling Metcalf here as he might slip through the cracks this weekend given his lower cache. Metcalf has failed to reach 50 yards or score a touchdown just once in his first eight games in the league. This last week perfectly encapsulates what Metcalf can do: against the Falcons he only had 13 yards on three receptions but he scored two touchdowns for his best performance of the season (16.3 points). Seattle’s attack is so efficient that Metcalf is almost volume-proof and will make the most of his chances because they usually are maximized by Russell Wilson’s abilities. Tampa Bay is as bad as Atlanta against WRs (fifth-most fantasy points per game allowed to the position) and they have only finished one game (Week 2, Carolina) without surrendering a receiving touchdown to their rival’s wideouts.
Jarvis Landry, CLE (at DEN) - SIT
I could have written Odell Beckham’s name here, as he’s the one with more star power, but you just don’t sit Odell Freaking Beckham no matter how bad he’s playing. Jarvis Landry, on the other hand, you sadly need to fade. I didn’t expect it to be this way, but the Broncos have actually trumped both New England and San Francisco as the best defense against wide receivers in points per game given up to the position. No wonder, considering they have stopped four of the last five teams they have faced to no receiving touchdowns, including Indianapolis last week in a game where the Colts receivers combined couldn’t even reach 70 receiving yards. Landry’s best game this season came in Week 4 against Baltimore (167 yards, 24.7 points) but that is more of an outlier than an average. In fact, Landry has not scored a touchdown yet and has surpassed the 65-yard mark just two times in seven games.
Golden Tate, NYG (vs DAL) - SIT
This is related to Daniel Jones’ expected drop in production this weekend (read above) as much as it is about the Cowboys matchup. Look, Tate has been great in the four games he’s played this season and it is probable that he keeps it somewhat up going forward, but this week I’m not buying. Tate has the same number of 80-plus receiving yards games as 80-plus receiving yards performances the Cowboys have allowed to wide receivers all season long. Of 36 wideouts to face the Cowboys so far, only three have reached that mark (Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, and Michael Thomas). Dallas comes from limiting Wentz to 191 yards and Jones will likely have a rough day, thus impacting Tate’s upside this week. The Giants also might get Sterling Shepard back this week, cutting into Tate’s targets.
T.J. Hockenson, DET (at OAK) - START
Hockenson is worth including in this list because he’s truly gone from must-start to dubious play since the start of the season. I was the first one caught in the hurricane produced by his incredible debut (131 yards and a touchdown on six receptions, 25.1 points), but from that point on he’s only been able to rack up 87 yards and another score in all of his last six games combined. But the Raiders are here to help. The tight end position is incredibly volatile and thin on talent. Oakland has had five games in which they’ve allowed more than 11 fantasy points to the position and two where they gave up 24-plus points. In their last two games, the Raiders have surrendered 65 and 69 receiving yards to the Packers and Texans tight ends, allowing them to score one and two touchdowns respectively.
Hunter Henry, LAC (vs GB) - START
Henry’s been targeted six or more times since he recovered from his injury, logged 47 or more yards every time he’s seen the field and caught at least four passes in each game. He has been targeted the second-most by Philip Rivers in the last three weeks and has averaged more points per game than any Chargers receiver. At the other side of the field this weekend, Green Bay enters the game having allowed 54.6 fantasy points and four touchdowns to tight ends in their last two games combined. Pencil Henry in as a serious candidate for a rebound and a TE1 score this week.
Jason Witten, DAL (at NYG)
You might be tempted to start Witten this weekend and I wouldn’t blame you. He’s been one of the most consistent plays at the position this year, averaging 9.2 points per game with a floor of six and a ceiling of 12 so far. Not mind-blowing, but good enough for a tight end. The problem Witten carries is that he’s completely forgotten by Dak Prescott in the red zone, as he’s been targeted just once inside the 20-yard line in his last four games. On top of that, Dallas is facing the fourth-best defense against tight ends in points per game allowed to the position. In fact, and although you might think I’m making these numbers up, the Giants are on a six-game streak in which they have allowed five or fewer fantasy points to tight ends and have limited all of them to 38 or fewer receiving yards, let alone score a touchdown. Don’t stream Witten this week and look for other options.
Mark Andrews, BAL (vs NE) - SIT
I know it is hard to make the move and you’ll think I’m crazy for it, but bear with me. Mark Andrews has the fourth-most fantasy points among tight ends this season with an average of 14.1 per game. The bulk of his production, though, came in just two outings to start the year: 24.8 and 25.2 fantasy points in weeks 1 and 2 (108 and 112 yards, one touchdown in each game). Andrew’s 50 fantasy points in his first two matchips are more than those he’s amassed (48.9) in the rest of the games he’s played this season. He has yet to catch more than six passes after hauling in eight in both of those two games, or to reach 100 receiving yards. New England has a record-setting defense, even more so against tight ends. The Patriots are giving up just 5.7 points per game to the position, and have been scored on just once (last weekend) on a ridiculously low 17 receptions allowed this season. I guess that should be enough to convince you of passing on Andrews this weekend.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is chapulana) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.