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Week 9 fantasy football matchups, starts and sits

Struggling to set the perfect fantasy lineup? Let us be your guide. Each week the NFL Fantasy staff will provide you with game-by-game, player-by-player matchup breakdowns in this column to help you set a winning lineup. Think of this as the one-stop shop to crushing your opponent in fantasy football.

Now, onto the best and worst Week 9 fantasy matchups.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX


Matthew Stafford, QB -- SIT: The Vikings allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, so this is far from an ideal matchup for Stafford. He's also struggled mightily on the road this year. Minnesota's defense has not been as tough the last two games, but you're still probably better off taking a flier on someone like Nick Foles.

Marvin Jones, WR -- FLEX: The Vikings defense has allowed just four receiving touchdowns to wideouts the entire year. Jones' hot start has stalled out of late with just 18 receptions for 248 yards and two scores in his last five games.

Theo Riddick, RB -- START: We saw last week how important Riddick is to the Lions' offense. Even if Detroit struggles, Riddick's volume is enough to make him a solid RB2 start.

Golden Tate, WR -- FLEX: Tate has seen more volume lately with at least six receptions in each of his last three games. Still, a matchup against the Vikings is about as bad as it gets for receivers. He's a low-end flex with six teams on bye.

Eric Ebron, TE - START: Ebron saw 10 targets and converted those opportunities into seven receptions for 79 yards in his healthy return in Week 8. He's a fringe top-10 option at tight end this week despite the unfavorable matchup (the Vikings have not allowed a touchdown to a tight end all year).


Sam Bradford, QB -- SIT: Bradford hasn't been a viable starting fantasy quarterback this season, and despite a good matchup against Detroit, that's not going to change. Plus, the Vikings offensive line has been horrific the last few games, which doesn't help.

Stefon Diggs, WR -- START: Diggs is averaging just 45.3 receiving yards per game since Week 3 so it was refreshing to see him absorb 13 targets and score his second touchdown against the Bears last week. There's a good chance he'll be extremely involved against a Lions defense that is abysmal against the pass this year.

Matt Asiata, RB -- LOW-END FLEX: Asiata had a difficult time getting anything going last week, even as a feature back with Jerick McKinnon out. As a team, the Vikings are averaging just 71.9 rushing yards per game, a franchise worst. Of course, there's always the possibility that the plodder plunges into the end zone, which gives him flex appeal.

Jerick McKinnon, RB -- FLEX: McKinnon's status needs to be monitored as the weekend draws near, as he said he'll be ready to play after sitting out Week 8 with an ankle injury, but has yet to practice. If he suits up, he'll be a high-end flex play behind the Vikings abysmal offensive line.

Kyle Rudolph, TE - START: No team allows more fantasy points per game to tight ends than the Lions. As a result, Rudolph has top-five upside at his position this week.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX


Carson Wentz, QB -- SIT: Wentz has been a good quarterback on the field for the Eagles, but he hasn't been great for your fantasy roster. A stingy Giants defense isn't likely to change that second part.

Ryan Mathews, RB -- FLEX: Head coach Doug Pederson says Mathews will be the team's lead running back. That doesn't guarantee a lot of carries. But if it means goal-line touches, we can get on board.

Darren Sproles, RB -- SIT: Sproles' saving fantasy grace was that he was leading the team in snaps and touches. That's all changed now and Sproles isn't getting enough touchdown looks to make him worth a start.

Jordan Matthews, WR -- FLEX: Matthews is the only Eagles receiver worth any real consideration. His mediocre production versus the Giants average secondary should produce perfectly "meh" numbers.

Zach Ertz, TE -- SIT: You might be short-handed at tight end this week, but you're probably not "start Zach Ertz versus a tough TE defense" short-handed.


Eli Manning, QB -- SIT: Eli has produced just one 20-point fantasy game this season. That's how you end up outside the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks. This week doesn't look to be much different.

Rashad Jennings, RB -- SIT: Jennings has 142 yards on 53 carries this season. Don't bother doing the math, just know that it's bad. The Eagles aren't the best against RBs, but they're good enough to stop Jennings.

Odell Beckham, Jr., WR -- START: Yes, the matchup on paper isn't a great one. But why would you leave a dynamic talent who dominates his team's target share on your bench? That just doesn't make sense.

Sterling Shepard, WR -- SIT: After a fast start to the season, Shepard has faded into oblivion. You can't abide another three-point game, which is what's potentially on tap this week.

Victor Cruz, WR -- SIT: For as underwhelming as Shepard has been lately, Cruz has been even more lackluster. This is not the fantasy matchup you're looking for.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB -- SIT: This is a quality matchup for Fitzpatrick but as he's failed to take advantage of previous good matchups, it's hard to consider trusting him here.

Matt Forte, RB -- FLEX: We'd all feel a lot better if Todd Bowles would promise us that Forte gets 25 or more touches per game. That's worked well the last two weeks. It might be necessary this week.

Bilal Powell, RB -- SIT: Powell was super efficient with his touches last week, but that level of production is hard to count on from a player averaging fewer than seven touches per game.

Brandon Marshall, WR -- START: Despite the revolving door of uninspiring quarterbacks, Marshall has still seen nearly 10 targets per game and is still a top 25 receiver. That's good against Miami's shaky secondary.

Quincy Enunwa, WR -- START: Believe it or not, Enunwa has been the Jets' best fantasy receiver this season. You should believe it. Because it's a fact.


Ryan Tannehill, QB -- START: If you're streaming quarterbacks, you could do worse than one facing a defense that gives up a lot of big plays through the air. Tannehill could have legs this week.

Jay Ajayi, RB -- FLEX: The matchup is a so-so one. The Jets aren't allowing a great yards per carry average, but the Dolphins have pretty much become a one-back team after the retirement of Arian Foster.

Jarvis Landry, WR -- START: Landry has been Miami's most consistent fantasy option this season. He should find a way to get over on Gang Green's vulnerable secondary.

Kenny Stills, WR -- FLEX: The Jets have a tendency to give up big plays through the air. Stills is the Dolphins big-play receiver.

Dolphins D/ST -- START: Miami offers a nice streaming option against an offense that is prone to giving the ball away and allowing sacks.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs: 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS


Blake Bortles, QB -- START: I mean, I guess, right? The Chiefs defense has holes to pick and even if the Jaguars play bad Bortles can still put up fantasy numbers. In short: who knows?

Jaguars RBs -- SIT: The new offensive coordinator was supposedly hired to help re-focus the team on the ground attack. It's unclear why the team wants to focus on a unit running for just 3.8 yards per carry. Thus, we should not be focused on them either.

Allen Robinson, WR -- FLEX: A lock for double-digit targets, Robinson is hard to sit even though his season has been an unmitigated disaster. He runs most of his routes against right cornerbacks so he should avoid Marcus Peters in this game.

Allen Hurns, WR -- SIT: You're banking on garbage time and him making a big play on his own out of the slot if you start him. Feel free to decide whether that's worth it for you.

Julius Thomas, TE -- START: With players like Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed and Tyler Eifert on bye, odds are you need help at the position. Thomas is at least worth the gamble that he finds the end zone.


Nick Foles, QB -- START: Foles makes for a solid but not great level streamer this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has a solid pass defense, limiting opponents to just 235.6 passing yards per game. However, Foles will take chances downfield and could flirt with a nice ceiling.

Charcandrick West, RB -- START:Spencer Ware looks likely to sit with a concussion, bringing 2015 waiver-wire wonder West back into the fold. West should absorb a ton of volume as the Chiefs don't have another proven back available with Jamaal Charles also on IR now.

Jeremy Maclin, WR -- START: This is a week to chase the upper end of Maclin's volatility. Foles averaged 15.5 air yards on his attempted passes while Alex Smith registered just 8.0 last week. If Foles is gunning downfield, that brings more playmaking opportunities for Maclin into the equation. Just keep an eye on his status as he has missed practice with a groin injury.

Tyreek Hill, WR -- FLEX: The Chiefs should take it to the floundering Jaguars, so it might not be a shootout type game where Hill sees much work. On the other hand, Foles could look to him deep in this spot.

Travis Kelce, TE -- START: Coming with one of the best ceilings and floors at the tight end position, Kelce is a player you start every week.

Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns: 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX


Dak Prescott, QB -- START: It's all systems go for Prescott this week, who has thrown for five touchdowns in his last two games and ran in another. The Browns defense is talent deficient and particularly struggles playing disciplined up front. This should be a big running day for Dak.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB -- START: He's a top two or three running back in fantasy, and should completely shred this undermanned Cleveland defense.

Dez Bryant, WR -- START: The Browns haven't slowed down passing games all season. Dez immediately returned to a feature role in Dallas with 14 targets and over 100 receiving yards last week.

Cole Beasley, WR -- FLEX: Beasley is probably worth a shot as a flex play this week given the matchup. The ceiling is not what it was when Bryant was out, but his floor is appealing with six teams on bye this week.

Jason Witten, TE -- START: If you are one of the owners in a bind with your high-end tight end on bye, consider Witten as a dart throw. His volume is far from secure, but he could sneak into the end zone this week. The Browns allow the second-most receptions to tight ends on the year.


Josh McCown/Cody Kessler, QB -- SIT: If we get another week of McCown it will be tempting to play him given his aggressive style of play. Yet, Dallas slows the game down so much, he probably won't offer much of a ceiling.

Isaiah Crowell, RB -- FLEX: As always, the Cowboys gave up a solid yards per carry average to Darren Sproles last week, but we know their slow style of play limits the opportunities opposing running backs get against them. Crowell is still a strong bet for a red zone carry or two, and worth a play. Duke Johnson is playable here, but only in PPR formats and gets a boost if it is McCown, not Kessler under center.

Terrelle Pryor, WR -- FLEX: He's getting so much volume it's hard to convince yourself of a reason to sit him. It will be interesting to see what the possible return of Corey Coleman does to his outlook.

Corey Coleman, WR -- FLEX: Coleman is reportedly a "full-go" for Week 9, and his upside might just be worth chasing on this bye-ravaged week.

Gary Barnidge, TE -- START: It looks like Barnidge was on his way to a big game, but came up just short on a few near misses. He still saw seven targets last week and offers a secure floor as a streamer.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS


Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- START: Coming off a knee procedure that cost him just one game, Ben is expected to play on Sunday against the Ravens. He's a top-10 option as a fantasy quarterback if he does indeed suit up, despite Baltimore's stingy defense.

Antonio Brown, WR -- START: Brown is a must-start fantasy wideout either way, but Roethlisberger's potential return is obviously a boon to his fantasy outlook.

Le'Veon Bell, RB -- START: Bell, who has yet to find the end zone, has racked up 100-plus scrimmage yards in each of his four games this season. Despite his touchdown drought, he's still managed to work his way into the top 30 among fantasy backs for the season, and he missed three games.

Sammie Coates, WR -- FLEX:Coates is Pittsburgh's speedy deep threat, but he had been dealing with finger and hand injuries before the bye. It's worth monitoring the injury report to see how healthy he's been able to get during the bye week as he's a threat for a home run play, especially with Big Ben potentially back.

Jesse James, TE -- SIT: Even with six teams on bye, there are higher-upside plays at tight end than James this week. There's a slight chance Ladarius Green returns too, which would make James irrelevant in fantasy.

Ladarius Green, TE -- SIT: There are reports this week that Green could return in Week 9, but for fantasy purposes, this is a wait-and-see kind of situation, until we know how the Steelers implement him into the offense.


Joe Flacco, QB - -START: Flacco is a sneaky streaming option this week given his passing volume (six straight games with 40-plus attempts) combined with the Steelers 26th-ranked pass defense.

Terrance West, RB -- START: In his last four games, West has averaged 4.8 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns. He's a solid RB2 against a Steelers defense that was gashed for over 200 rush yards by Jay Ajayi and 127 rush yards by LeGarrette Blount in the two games before their bye. If you're concerned about his injury, West isn't listed on the Ravens injury report at all ahead of Week 9.

Mike Wallace, WR -- START: In his last two games, Wallace has averaged 108.6 receiving yards and is the de facto No. 1 option with Steve Smith likely out. He brings WR2 value in a cushy matchup against a bad Steelers pass defense.

Breshad Perriman, WR -- SIT: Perriman isn't getting the volume needed to be a fantasy asset just yet. Leave him on the waiver wire for now.

Steve Smith, WR -- SIT: Smith hasn't practiced yet ahead of Week 9, and is listed on the injury report with an ankle ailment. Find other options.

Dennis Pitta, TE - START: Pitta leads the Ravens in receptions and is an ideal play at tight end in PPR formats. Unfortunately, he has yet to find the end zone this year, so if you're using him out of desperation, keep in mind that he'll need to manufacture fantasy points from receptions and yardage totals.

New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers: 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX


Drew Brees, QB -- START:Drew Brees is a good start against tough defenses. What do you think he can do against a bad defensive unit like the 49ers?

Mark Ingram, RB -- SIT: Ingram wasn't getting many touches. Now he's losing some of those to Tim Hightower and won't get goal-line touches. There's not a lot of value to be found.

Tim Hightower, RB -- START: For now, it looks like Hightower is the Saints running back of record. He's at least more likely than Mark Ingram to get carries near the end zone. Oh ... and 49ers.

Michael Thomas, WR -- START: Why wouldn't you start the Saints' top receiver against one of the worst defenses in the NFL? You don't have a good reason, do you? No. No you don't.

Brandin Cooks, WR -- START: This is the type of week when you can feel confident in starting just about all of your Saints players. That includes Cooks, who has the potential for a high ceiling.

Willie Snead, WR -- START: Remember above when we wrote that you should consider starting all of your Saints this week? Willie Snead is a Saint. He's a productive Saint. You should start him.

Coby Fleener, TE -- START: When we said you could start almost all of your Saints, we weren't playing around. With six teams on a bye this week, Fleener could offer stopgap production.


Colin Kaepernick, QB -- SIT: Kap has been better than Blaine Gabbert and the Niners think he can be better still. But even with six teams on a bye, he hasn't been good enough to start outside of very deep leagues.

Carlos Hyde, RB -- SIT (INJURY): It sounds like Hyde will be held out with a shoulder injury again. DuJuan Harris is a decent spot start in place of Hyde.

Jeremy Kerley, WR -- SIT: Kerley is by far the team leader in targets. But that means just eight targets per game -- a number that's inflated by double-digit target totals in Week 1 and 5. Avoid this.

Torrey Smith, WR -- SIT: Smith has only topped 75 receiving yards once this season. The reason he keeps appearing in this column is ... well, we don't really know. Maybe it's to remind you to sit him. We'll go with that.

Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams: 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX


Cam Newton, QB -- START: Even in a game where he did not score on the ground or through the air, Cam offered up 12.8 points. That floor is why you play him no matter what, and the Rams should give him access to a line closer to his ceiling.

Jonathan Stewart, RB -- START: Stewart has eight carries inside the 10-yard line over the last two weeks and knocked in four touchdowns. With the team less enthusiastic about slamming Cam Newton into the goal line after early season injuries, Stewart is a prime bet for a touchdown each and every week.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR -- START: The Rams top corner Trumaine Johnson could return in Week 9 to face off with Benjamin, but the volume is just too tasty with the Panthers' top wideout. He made a big play after the catch last week, despite only snaring two catches.

Greg Olsen, TE -- START: Probably the top tight end play on the board this week with all the byes, Olsen looks like he's in a solid position for another great game. He's known to have those.


Case Keenum, QB -- SIT: Keenum has offered some nice streaming weeks, but the Panthers are playing more aggressive defense with their pressure package. There is also talk that Jared Goff could make his debut soon, so you can't risk Keenum getting yanked mid-game.

Todd Gurley, RB -- FLEX: You can't really turn your nose up at Gurley and his volume with so many teams on bye and injuries racking the running back position. However, at this point in the season you know what the deal is here with Gurley. The Panthers held David Johnson to 24 rushing yards on 10 carries last week.

Kenny Britt, WR -- FLEX: You can chase Britt's floor once again against this undermanned Panthers defense after he registered what was his first game with fewer than four receptions in his Week 7 contest before the bye.

Tavon Austin, WR -- SIT: He is always a threat for a big game, but they are about as predictable as the weather ... or fantasy football in general.

Brian Quick, WR -- FLEX: You could do a lot worse than Quick as a spot start this week. Keenum averages more air yards on his targets to Quick than any other player and the Panthers give up the second-most yards per target to wideouts.

Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers: 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS


Andrew Luck, QB -- START: The Packers secondary is simply decimated with injuries, and even if T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) misses this game, Luck will make a fine start.

Frank Gore, RB -- FLEX: Aside from Ezekiel Elliott, no running back has gained more than 48 rushing yards against the Packers. Still, Gore's usage in the passing game (three receiving touchdowns) will make him a viable flex play.

T.Y. Hilton, WR -- SIT (INJURY): Hilton missed practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury, one that will need to be monitored closely up until game time. If he plays, he's a great start against the Packers.

Donte Moncrief, WR -- START: Moncrief saw nine targets last week in his first game back from a shoulder injury and is a virtual must-start this week against the Packers, especially given Hilton's injury status.

Jack Doyle/Dwayne Allen TEs -- START: With Dwayne Allen shaping up to play he's the better option over Doyle. If Allen can't go, Doyle has TE1 upside..


Aaron Rodgers, QB -- START: Rodgers has turned around his play after a subpar start to the season. He has seven touchdowns, no interceptions and is averaging 286 passing yards per game over the last two weeks. He's one of the week's top QB plays.

Packers WRs -- START/FLEX: Facing one of the league's worst pass defenses, the trio of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery are all worth starting. Randall Cobb (hamstring) sounds like he'll be OUT. No team features wide receivers more than Green Bay (ranks first in percentage of touches, scrimmage yards, touchdowns and receiving yards by WRs), while the Colts secondary is 31st in passing yards allowed (287.8) and has a league-low two interceptions on the year.

Packers D/ST -- START: Luck remains the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL, while the Colts are prone to giving up back-breaking turnovers. There is risk here with the secondary in such disrepair, but for fantasy this unit should produce solid totals.

Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers: 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS


Marcus Mariota, QB -- START: With so many signal-callers on byes, Mariota can be streamed hoping his hot streak (10 touchdowns, one interception) continues against the depleted San Diego secondary.

Titans RBs -- START:DeMarco Murray is a no-brainer, but given his foot injury, the team could turn more carries over to talented rookie Derrick Henry. Both should have fantasy value this weekend.

Titans WRs -- SIT: Those desperate for help could look to Kendall Wright, but he's still playing limited snaps. Rishard Matthews has touchdown upside, but that's about it in this low-volume passing attack. Tajae Sharpe as a fantasy sleeper was a fun midsummer night's dream, no?

Delanie Walker, TE -- START: Even though he missed one game due to injury, Walker is still second on the team in target share with 16.9 percent. He's a strong TE1 play every week.


Philip Rivers, QB -- START: Rivers has hit a bit of a fantasy skid, averaging just 12.81 fantasy points per game in his last three contests, though that includes two matchups against Denver. He's a solid bounce-back candidate this week at home against a Tennessee defense that ranks 20th in the league against the pass.

Melvin Gordon, RB -- START: It's impossible to sit Gordon due to his touchdown upside and volume of touches, even against a tough Titan run defense.

Chargers WRs -- START: This recommendation comes with one caveat: SIT Travis Benjamin. The speedster is dealing with a sprained PCL, the same injury that basically shut down Tyler Lockett's productivity. Tyrell Williams, if he suits up (knee), and Dontrelle Inman are solid starts this week, though, with Benjamin less than 100 percent.

Antonio Gates, TE -- START: Gates is back to out-snapping and out-targeting Hunter Henry. When Gates is in the lineup and healthy, he's the only one to start.

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC


Trevor Siemian, QB -- START (2QB): Siemian makes for an interesting DFS or 2QB league play against a bad Oakland secondary. Otherwise, there are better options in more standard leagues.

Devontae Booker, RB -- START: Booker looks locked-in for featured back duties with C.J. Anderson on the shelf. He's an every-week RB1, or RB2 at worse, until further notice.

Emmanuel Sanders & Demaryius Thomas, WRs -- START: Sanders and Thomas remain an extremely efficient, productive fantasy duo. A mere .8 fantasy points separate them in standard scoring as the WR14-15 overall.


Derek Carr, QB -- SIT: The Denver defense has been like the Bermuda Triangle for fantasy scoring. No quarterback has scored more than 15 fantasy points against the Broncos since Cam Newton in Week 1.

Raiders RBs -- SIT: The one chink in the Denver defense's armor is its run defense (24th in the league), but this Raiders backfield is too split up to trust any one rusher in fantasy this week.

Amari Cooper, WR -- START: While Cooper takes 63 percent of his snaps from the left side of the field (wide and in the slot), meaning he'll likely face Chris Harris plenty, he's still a fine fantasy start. His depressed numbers against this group last year came in part because of his foot injury. Fully healthy and with a year of experience, Cooper will have his chances to make plays.

Michael Crabtree, WR -- START:Aqib Talib spends most of his time on the defensive left side of the field, which means if he plays he'll likely tango with Crabtree a bunch. However, Talib missed Week 8 with a back injury and could be out again in Week 9. That benefits Cooper greatly, as Bradley Roby, while good, isn't as physical as Talib and might have a harder time slowing down Crabtree.

Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN


Tyrod Taylor, QB -- SIT: Taylor proved remarkably consistent in fantasy aside from a five-point Week 1 disaster, but trusting him on the road in Seattle is about as risky as it gets in fantasy.

LeSean McCoy, RB -- START: It won't feel great, but if McCoy plays on Monday night he should be started in fantasy, too. He practiced on a limited basis on Thursday (a great sign), and the team will need him to play a big role if it hopes to win in Seattle.

Mike Gillislee, RB -- FLEX: With McCoy on track to play on Monday, Gillislee's value takes a big hit. However, he should see some run as the team likely tries to protect McCoy's hamstring a bit, giving him low-end flex appeal.

Bills WRs -- SIT: This unit is banged up, ineffective, or recently out of retirement (what's up, Percy Harvin?). Keep these guys on the bench in a brutal road matchup.

Bills D/ST -- START: Even outside of their home stadium, the Bills defense should be able to get after a hobbled Russell Wilson for at least a few sacks.


Russell Wilson, QB -- SIT: Wilson hasn't thrown a touchdown since Week 4 and is battling three separate injuries (knee, ankle, pectoral). He's borderline drop worthy at this point.

Christine Michael, RB -- START: While The Awakening could be coming to an end soon, CWoke is a fine start this week. The Bills allow just shy of four yards per carry and have let in nine touchdowns on the ground to opposing backs. With Wilson being so banged up, the team will likely defer to Michael in scoring chances.

C.J. Prosise, RB -- FLEX: He's a bit of a risky play after much of his production in Week 8 came on one trick play, but the coaching staff said they wasn't to give their talented rookie an increased role. He's a solid flex in PPR formats during the bye-week apocalypse.

Doug Baldwin, WR -- FLEX: Buffalo's pass defense was just spun in circles by Tom Brady and co. While this passing attack is a far cry from the Patriots, Baldwin could be rolled out in the flex given all of the byes.

Jimmy Graham, TE -- START: Even though he disappointed in his "revenge" game last week, Graham remains second on the team in targets and is a weekly must-start among tight ends.

Seahawks D/ST -- START: Facing a banged up offense at home, the "Legion of Boom" is in a fantastic spot for fantasy production.

Completed Games

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network (Thursday)


Matt Ryan, QB -- START: Matty Ice leads the NFL in passing yards (2,636) and passing touchdowns (19) and remains the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy. You don't need a fantasy analyst to tell you to start him every week, but a matchup against a soft Bucs secondary gives him extreme upside.

Devonta Freeman, RB -- START: Freeman will be an RB1 with Tevin Coleman sidelined for the second straight game. Freeman has never scored a touchdown in his career against Tampa Bay, but that's likely to change on Thursday night.

Julio Jones, WR -- START: Julio has 100-plus receiving yards in four of his last seven games, and is a good bet to reach that mark again against a Bucs secondary that allows 274.7 passing yards per game this season. Lock him into your WR1 slot.

Terron Ward, RB -- SIT: Ward got some run behind Freeman last week and averaged 7.7 yards per carry on his six rush attempts. There's no real upside here though, so he's not worth starting except in desperation.

Mohamed Sanu, WR -- FLEX: Sanu posted nine catches for 84 yards and a game-winning score last week against Green Bay. He's been inconsistent as a fantasy producer but he should be able to get behind the Bucs' bad secondary enough to provide flex value in deeper formats.

Tevin Coleman, RB -- OUT: Coleman (hamstring) was a long shot to play but was officially ruled out by the Falcons and will miss his second consecutive game. Hopefully he can get right by Week 10.


Jameis Winston, QB -- START: Winston has performed well with two easy matchups the previous two weeks, and should be able to produce again on Thursday night. He's our consensus ranked QB8 for Week 9 against a Falcons defense that owns a 75.9 percent red-zone touchdown rate, last in the NFL.

Mike Evans, WR -- START: Evans' six touchdown receptions this year ties him for the most in the NFL and he ranks second in the league with 86 targets, putting him on pace for about 196 for the year. You cannot leave a wideout with that many opportunities on the bench, ever.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB -- OUT: Rodgers has been ruled out with a foot injury.

Antone Smith, RB -- FLEX: Smith will likely split the workload with rookie Peyton Barber since Rodgers is out. It's worth noting that Smith played under Dirk Koetter in Atlanta. It's tough to decipher which back will see more volume, but both are viable flex plays against a Falcons defense allowing 28.9 points per game.

Peyton Barber, RB -- FLEX: Barber, a rookie, will likely be the early-down banger against Atlanta while the speedy Smith works in as a change-of-pace back. Maybe not, though. This could also be a hot-hand situation. Flip a coin. Good luck.

Cameron Brate, TE -- START: Brate has four red-zone receptions on the season, three of which have been touchdowns and the Falcons have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this year. With six teams on bye this week, Brate makes for a decent tight end spot-start.

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