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Week 9 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Dak Prescott (@ PHI)

Prescott was in this spot last week, and he came through with 28.06 fantasy points in a blowout win over the Rams. Now, Dallas heads to Philadelphia for a probable shootout, and the Eagles have not been great on the backend so far this year with the seventh-most passing yards per game (247.5) and third-most touchdown passes (16) allowed. Dak is a borderline top-five play that can again finish as a high-end QB1 option.


Thumbs Up: Sam Howell (@ NE)

There is slight hesitation here with Bill Belichick—considering his history versus young signal-callers—perhaps knowing how to defend Howell, and the game will be in New England. That said, Washington has been extremely pass-happy under Eric Bieniemy (40+ attempts in four of the past five games), and it was encouraging to see both Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson involved last week. Howell is worth grabbing as a low-end QB1 for Week 9.


Thumbs Up: Mac Jones (v WAS)

On the other side of the Commanders-Patriots matchup, Jones slides right in behind Howell for our weekly rankings, and I love how the game sets up for him to put up numbers. Aside from Washington struggling in coverage all year, they just traded their two best edge rushers in Chase Young and Montez Sweat, so hopefully Jones will have time to deliver the ball to his playmakers this weekend. He’s a strong streamer if you can look past the struggles thus far in 2023.


Thumbs Up: Zach Wilson (v LAC)

Wilson is another shaky option, but it shows the state of the position right now, and the Chargers are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. While the pass protection might be a concern (13 sacks over the past three games), Wilson has growing confidence by making plays when it matters most, and he’s only thrown one interception over his past five outings. Look for him to attack the weaknesses of the Chargers and make plays with his legs when he can.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Will Levis (@ PIT)

It’s impossible to not be impressed with Levis’ first career start, and Tennessee did a great job scheming up shots for him to take downfield. Fantasy owners shouldn’t overreact to one game, though, and the Steelers will test the biggest weakness of Levis coming out of Kentucky, which is dealing with pressure. On a short week with the offensive line still a question mark, Levis carries a concerning floor that makes him more of a low-end QB2 option.


Thumbs Down: Jordan Love (v LAR)

Love started the year with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first two games, but he’s since thrown five touchdowns with eight interceptions—and Green Bay has been held to 20 points or fewer in every game during that span. The Rams have only surrendered eight passing touchdowns in eight games this season, so Love getting on track is unlikely for a matchup that could be a bit of a slugfest. He’s a volatile QB2 this week.


Thumbs Down: Bryce Young (v IND)

Carolina went with more of a ball-control offense coming out of the bye, and Young was efficient by completing 22-of-31 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. From a long-term perspective, I’m a huge believer in Young, but he was sacked six times in the Week 8 victory, and Indy has allowed just 12.48 fantasy points per game to opposing passers over the past five games. Some have called him a QB1 play this week, but we would rather go with any of the “Thumbs Up” options.


Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (@ GB)

The status of Stafford (thumb) is up in the air, but if he plays, the talk is that he might have issues gripping the ball—which could lead to disaster on the road with temperatures in the 40s and possible rain in the forecast. Plus, Stafford has lost four games in a row to the Packers, and no more Aaron Rodgers means it’s less likely that a shootout occurs. If he plays, Stafford would be a solid QB2 at best despite the current weakness at quarterback.


Running back


Thumbs Up: Rhamondre Stevenson (v WAS)

The workload for Stevenson in recent weeks has been a disappointment, as he’s seen carry totals of eight, ten, nine, and ten over the past four games. However, the Commanders might be deflated with a close loss to the Eagles being compounded by trading away two key players (multiple guys have expressed disappointment about the moves), and Stevenson has seemed to break tackles at a higher rate over the past couple of outings. I like him as a borderline RB1/RB2 play at home.


Thumbs Up: Rachaad White (@ HOU)

Tampa Bay rotated White, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and Chase Edmonds last week in the first half of their loss to Buffalo, but they unleashed the starter in the second half—resulting in nine carries for 39 yards and seven receptions for 70 yards. Over the past two weeks, White has caught 13-of-13 targets for 135 yards, and keeping him involved at a high level maximizes the effectiveness of the offense. Start him as a high-floor RB2 against the Texans.


Thumbs Up: Zack Moss (@ CAR)

Jonathan Taylor is ranked as a top-three option at running back for the first time this year, but that doesn’t mean Moss isn’t an excellent start in his own right—as Carolina is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. When the Colts are at least able to keep it close, they want to pound the rock, and Moss is a big part of that with touch totals of 25, 13, 19, and 12 since Taylor’s return. We have him as a top-20 option.


Thumbs Up: Royce Freeman (@ GB)

Darrell Henderson Jr. has started and seen a bit more work than him, but Freeman has been extremely efficient over the past two games—rushing 21 times for 110 yards and one touchdown (a goal-line carry last week). Facing a soft Green Bay run defense with Matthew Stafford either out or at less than 100%, Freeman should get a decent amount of work, and he played 53% of the offense snaps in the blowout loss to Dallas. The veteran is a quality low-end RB2/FLEX play.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Dameon Pierce (v TB)

Although the efficiency was a season-best with 3.8 yards per carry, Pierce didn’t have much more success coming out of the bye week for Houston—rushing 12 times for 46 scoreless yards with zero targets. Furthermore, Devin Singletary remained involved with 12 touches for 43 yards, and it’s a concern that the split occurred in what should have been a positive game script for Pierce. He’s downgraded to the FLEX rankings against the Bucs.


Thumbs Down: Alexander Mattison (@ ATL)

“Volume” in a plus matchup was the reason for believing Mattison could be a good start in Week 8, but I also recommended trading him with Cam Akers emerging—and that is happening with Minnesota leaning more on the former Ram early in the game. Mattison unfortunately couldn’t turn late touches into production with 17 touches for 33 yards, so even a run-heavy approach without Kirk Cousins (Achilles) isn’t enough to keep him from falling below Akers and outside the top 30 at the position.


Thumbs Down: D’Onta Foreman (@ NO)

Often by no fault of his own, consistency was an issue for Foreman last year in Carolina, and it carried over to this season with a three-touchdown outing in Week 7 being followed up by nine carries for 34 scoreless yards last Sunday night. The Saints haven’t been too stout against the run in 2023, but Roschon Johnson could see more work, and Chicago again playing from behind would lower the floor and ceiling for Foreman.


Thumbs Down: Miles Sanders (v IND)

At some point, the Panthers might at least try going back to Sanders as the lead back after giving him a multi-year deal in the offseason; but that’s far too big of a leap to make right now, as he saw two touches for zero yards coming out of the bye, and Chuba Hubbard operated as the clear top option with 17 touches. In general, Sanders isn’t a player we are very high on, and he’s extremely difficult to trust in lineups.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: George Pickens (v TEN)

Pickens only caught one pass last week (it was fortunately a 22-yard touchdown), but the quieter game could lead to a monster outing on Thursday night against a Tennessee defense that doesn’t have the size to match him on the perimeter. Before last week, Pickens went for lines of 6/130/1 and 5/107 in the previous two games, and similar performance is very possible on a short week with Kenny Pickett looking his way. Fire him up as a high-end WR2.


Thumbs Up: Jahan Dotson (@ NE)

Terry McLaurin remains the favorite target of Sam Howell, but there is at least a chance Bill Belichick’s defense is able to take him away successfully, and Dotson showed how dangerous he can be with an 8/108/1 line last week against the Eagles. If nothing else, the confidence boost should lead to more productive numbers the rest of the way, and Dotson seemed to benefit from Curtis Samuel (foot) leaving early last Sunday. He can be played as a high-upside FLEX against a New England secondary that struggled to contain Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in Week 8.


Thumbs Up: Rashee Rice (v MIA)

Despite the Chiefs being hesitant about using Rice in a full-time role, the rookie has still put up strong numbers over the by past four games by catching 17-of-20 targets for 221 yards and two touchdowns—good for an average of 11.1 yards per target. Struggles for Kansas City could lead to Rice being featured for a potential shootout in Germany, and he should mostly avoid Jalen Ramsey with various pre-snap alignments. I like the SMU product as a top-30 option.


Thumbs Up: Demario Douglas (v WAS)

New England struggled to move the ball through the air last week in the loss to Miami, but Douglas led the team in targets (seven) and saw the most playing time among all wideouts (77%). With Kendrick Bourne (knee) done for the year, Douglas will only be more of a priority for the offense, and he brings a nice combination of floor and big-play upside. If available, the rookie is a recommended add.


Others: Romeo Doubs (v LAR), DeVante Parker (v WAS)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Puka Nacua (@ GB)

Nacua remains a top-five fantasy wide receiver on the season, and his last sub-par performance was followed up by a 154-yard game the following week. I’m not sure the same kind of bounce back will happen this week, though, as the health of Matthew Stafford is an issue, and Nacua could see a lot of top cornerback Jaire Alexander on the outside. He’s still a top-24 option in our rankings, but Nacua is downgraded some from his typical outlook.


Thumbs Down: Marquise Brown (@ CLE)

Kyler Murray (knee) making his season debut would cause Brown to go from a “Thumbs Down” option to a “Thumbs Up” option, but if Clayton Tune—who I like—is under center, there is just too much uncertainty to reliably count on the speedster on the road. Furthermore, the difference in Cleveland’s pass defense at home (11.9 fantasy points allowed to enemy wideouts) compared to on the road (38.3) is stark.


Thumbs Down: Michael Thomas (v CHI)

Jaylon Johnson remains in Chicago through the trade deadline, so the matchup for Thomas versus the Bears is tougher than it otherwise would have been considering how good the 24-year-old cornerback has looked in 2023. Over the past several weeks, top options Courtland Sutton (3/27/1), Terry McLaurin (4/49), Jordan Addison (3/28/1), Davante Adams (7/57), and Keenan Allen (8/69) have all been contained by Chicago, so Thomas might have a quiet day.


Thumbs Down: Wan’Dale Robinson (@ LV)

Finding other options to avoid at wide receiver isn’t easy this week, but Robinson has been held to 40 or fewer yards in all but one game this season, and Sunday might not be a time—even with Daniel Jones (neck) likely back—for him to have a breakout game considering the offensive struggles for both sides. Darren Waller (hamstring) facing an absence isn’t enough Robinson to be elevated over options with higher ceilings.


Others: Rashod Bateman (v SEA), Tyler Boyd (v BUF)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Jake Ferguson (@ PHI)

Ferguson had one game with at least five targets last season, and it came in a start against the Eagles where he caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. This year, Ferguson is the clear top guy for Dallas, so he’s positioned to have a strong game as a TE1 play with CeeDee Lamb drawing extra attention and Philadelphia having their share of struggles against tight ends—including last week against Washington.


Thumbs Up: Taysom Hill (v CHI)

If you want a little more upside, Hill is a definite top-ten option after rushing nine times for 63 yards and two touchdowns last week, and he’s been much more involved offensively with yardage totals of 51, 68, and 77 over the past three weeks (not including passing production). There is slight concern about the role falling off out of nowhere because it’s happened in the past, but it makes sense to roll with Hill while he’s hot.


Thumbs Up: David Njoku (v ARI)

Arizona is allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, but the position has actually gone for 50+ yards against them in five-of-eight games, and Njoku’s role has been solidified with 17 targets over the past two games. Whether it’s PJ Walker or Deshaun Watson (shoulder) at quarterback, Njoku should be a key part of the offense as the Browns look to avoid a home upset.


Thumbs Up (BONUS): Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki (v WAS)

For whatever reason, tight end appears to be in a good spot while quarterback has completely fallen off, so there are plenty of options to consider for Week 9. Perhaps this is too heavy of an investment in the New England offense with them being mentioned for every position, but Henry and Gesicki are both worth looking at as streaming options in what I believe can be a breakout game for the passing attack.