Gasp!!! Nooooo!!!!! WHHHHYYYYY!!!!!?????? Those were just a few examples of the sounds fantasy players around the world were making last week when so many big name players went down with injuries of various degrees. Pittsburgh Steelers' RB Le'Veon Bell was the headliner, tearing his right MCL against Cincinnati in what was a pretty hard injury to watch. Another was the Ravens' Steve Smith, who had been having a great season up until he tore his Achilles' tendon. Now, Smith may have played his final down in the NFL. The Chargers' Keenan Allen was on pace to have an amazing season but is now going to miss the rest of the year with a kidney injury. The Bears' Matt Forte also sustained a knee injury, but it appears he avoided a season-ending situation and could return in a few weeks. All of these terrible injuries just add to the already long list of star players who are out for the season, such as RBs Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster and WRs Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin.
It's hard to imagine how awful these injuries are for the players themselves and their teams, but how can fantasy players overcome these crushing losses? Well, in situations like those with Charles and Bell, you have to hope that you were able to get their handcuffs, as DeAngelo Williams should at least be a Top 10-12 back the rest of the way and Charcandrick West has done well with the full workload in Kansas City. If you didn't have those guys and were unable to pick them up off of waivers, then you might be falling on hard times. In the case of Nelson and Benjamin, you at least had the ability to plan ahead, as those injuries occurred in the preseason. With guys like Foster, Allen and Smith, there are no clear replacements on their respective teams and nobody can really take their place on the field or your roster. And to think we're only just halfway through the season! Well, all we can do is keeping putting together the best lineups possible and try to win some games.
As per usual, these are some of the games this week that I feel will offer the best situations for the fantasy players involved in them and appear poised to produce the highest number of fantasy relevant players. There will obviously be some guys who have greats weeks who aren't playing in these games, I just think these provide the best overall conditions for numerous fantasy relevant players to succeed. Let's get to it. Good luck in Week 9!
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers - Nov. 8, 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48
Oakland: Derek Carr, everyone! I think it's time to believe in Carr, who's having a great season by really any standards. Other than his Week 1 performance against Cincinnati when he injured his hand and a Week 5 match-up against Denver's staunch defense, Carr has put up at least 18 fantasy points in every game this season and has 24 or higher in four games. With Carr at the helm, Oakland's offense has been on the rise and they are 11th in the league in total offense. I know this game is in Pittsburgh and the Steelers have been decent against QBs in a fantasy sense, but they're giving up the 7th most passing yards per game and I really like how Carr has been playing. I think he's a Top-10 option at QB this week.
It helps that Carr has had a rookie in Amari Cooper who has had an immediate impact and a rejuvenated Michael Crabtree to throw the ball to. Cooper has been very solid as a WR2 for fantasy teams this season, putting up 10 or more points in four games and he's gotten at least 9 targets in all but two games. The other three games ended with Cooper having just 4 points, but they were all against good defenses in Cincinnati, Denver and the Jets. Crabtree isn't too far behind him and he's gotten at least 8 targets in every game except one. He's put up 12 and 16 fantasy points in the Raiders' last two outings against good pass defenses in San Diego and the Jets and he looks like he's here to stay as a big part of the Raiders' offense. Pittsburgh is middle of the pack in giving up fantasy points to WRs and shouldn't scare you away from starting this budding dynamic duo. Both guys should be considered WR2s this week.
The running game has been a little hit or miss, but Latavius Murray definitely looks the part of a starting RB in the NFL. Murray is averaging 4.6 yards per carry (ypc) and has 19 receptions on the season, but only has 3 total TDs. He has put up at least 7 fantasy points in five out of seven games and has double digits in four of those five, so you're really not disappointed in him, but if you watch the Raiders' games it looks like he could get even more touches. The Steelers are 3rd in fantasy points allowed to RBs and are 8th in rushing yards allowed per game, so it's no fluke. I still think Murray is a RB2 here and he did have a 20 rush 113 yard game against the Jets' #1 ranked run defense, so he's done it against tough competition before. You're starting him if you have him.
The Steelers' defense has actually given up the 4th most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs, so it would be nice if you could trust a Raiders' TE in this game. Unfortunately, Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford still seem to be splitting time, so there's really not a good play here. Walford looks like he could be a good player, but he's not a good fantasy option until he gets the job all to himself.
Pittsburgh: Where else is there to start in Pittsburgh other than the loss of Le'Veon Bell? Like I mentioned earlier, Bell is out for the season with what has been reported as a torn MCL in his right knee, along with other damage. He was no-doubt a Top-3 fantasy RB (along with Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley) and was such a great player that the Steelers' offense can't be the same as it was with Bell involved. That being said, his replacement, DeAngelo Williams, is a veteran player who knows what he's doing and has looked good in relief of Bell already this season -- 4.9 ypc on 63 rushes -- including his 2-game absence due to suspension at the beginning of the year. He should at least be a RB2 going forward and is likely a Top 10-12 guy, but the Raiders have actually been pretty tough against the run. While they're middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to the position, they're 2nd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and only give up 3.6 yards per attempt. You don't have to start Williams this week, but if you picked him up off of waivers, you probably have to.
In the same game that Bell was injured, QB Ben Roethlisberger made his return from an MCL injury and it looked like Pittsburgh would finally get all of their main offensive players on the field together for significant run in the second half of the season. We know that unfortunately won't be the case now, but I'm still expecting big things for Roethlisberger going forward. He's still got Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant to throw to and along with the reliable Heath Miller at TE, he should be in the range of a Top-5 QB for the rest of the season. Roethlisberger did look a bit rusty in his first game back, but that was against undefeated division rival Cincinnati. The Raiders' pass defense has allowed the 6th most fantasy points per game to QBs and are 31st in passing yards allowed per game. This is as good of a match-up as you can get and Big Ben is a Top 3-5 option this week.
I wrote last week that Antonio Brown had to be the person who was most excited that Roethlisberger was returning from injury after he suffered through several weeks of Michael Vick and one game (albeit a decent one) of Landry Jones. The Roethlisberger-Brown connection looked as strong as ever in the first drive of the game against Cincinnati but was fairly quiet after that. I don't think you can take anything away from that though, as the Bell injury seemed to cast a pall over the entire Steelers' offense. Brown is among the best receivers in the league and although the Raiders have managed to only give up 3 TDs to WRs this season, they've still given up the 9th most receiving yardage to them. You should have no issues starting Brown and Bryant in this game.
The aforementioned Heath Miller had a huge game last week in Big Ben's return, catching 10 passes on 13 targets for 105 yards. I don't think you can count on quite that level of production, but the Raiders are still giving up the most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs, so Miller is definitely worth a look as a waiver wire streaming option and in DFS.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Nov. 8, 4:05 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 49.5
Giants: Well at least I got one right last week. I thought the Giants-Saints game would be a high scoring affair and it definitely didn't disappoint. Nobody was expecting 13 total passing TDs between Eli Manning and Drew Brees, but a good game appeared to be a strong possibility. It can't be a good feeling to throw for 6 TDs and still lose though...Anyway, this week's match-up against the Bucs' defense isn't quite as good as last week and while Tampa is actually 14th in passing yards allowed per game, they've given up the 3rd most fantasy points per game to QBs. Start Manning with confidence again this week.
Unsurprisingly, Odell Beckham Jr. also had his biggest game of the season so far, going for 8 catches, 130 yards and 3 TDs against the Saints' hapless secondary. Tampa Bay has given up the 7th most fantasy points to WRs this season, right behind the New Orleans Saints. Let's see if Beckham can string together two huge games in a row, as he remains a Top-3 WR this week. The other main beneficiary of last week's offensive explosion was Dwayne Harris, who only caught 3 passes but managed to score TDs on 2 of them. Harris could be a sneaky DFS play this week, especially on those sites that give you points for returns as well. You can't trust him in any regular leagues though. You'd think I'd mention Rueben Randle here, but he only managed to score 5 fantasy points in a game that Eli Manning threw for 350 yards and 6 TDs. I want no part of him.
The Giants' running game has been a mess all year and I don't need to throw in any fancy stats to tell you that. The now four-headed monster of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa is a fantasy nightmare and you should be staying far away from it. It was looking like Darkwa could be the most relevant back to own in this situation, but he came out of Week 8 with a back injury that has only allowed him to be a limited participant in practice this week. He might be the guy to hold onto here for the long run, but he's only got a 12 carry sample size so far and he's already hurt. Shane Vereen might actually be the most start-able guy this week, but that's only in PPR formats. He's a RB3 or flex option in those leagues.
Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston didn't have a big game by any measure against the Falcons last week, finishing just 16 for 29 passing for 177 yards and 1 TD, although he did manage to avoid any picks. He gets a much juicier match-up this week, as the Giants have given up the most total passing yards in the NFL by almost 300 yards. Seriously guys, seven TDs last week. SEVEN!!! Winston is a great DFS play this week in tournaments but he's still hard to trust in seasonal leagues unless you're desperate.
Well, I though Doug Martin might continue his streak of strong performances last week, even against a tough Atlanta run defense and he did get 23 rushing attempts, but he only turned them into 71 yards. Still, you have to be encouraged by the workload he's getting and it looks like the Bucs really believe in him again. The Giants were pretty stout against the run early on in the season but have since fallen off of that pace, as they now have the 19th ranked rushing defense and are giving up 4.1 ypc. I like Martin again this week as a probable RB1, but there is the concern that the Giants put up a lot of points early and this turns into another shootout. Despite that, I have trust in Martin to put up some points here, as I don't think Tampa would cut Winston completely loose and let him throw the ball every play even if they're getting blown out.
It would help this offense if WR Vincent Jackson could play in this game after missing last week with a knee injury. He hasn't been practicing yet this week, which isn't a good sign, but you have to keep your eye on it leading up to Sunday. If Jackson is able to get on the field against this defense you can probably slide him in as a WR3 or flex. The other half of the WR duo in Tampa, Mike Evans, has had a pretty disappointing season so far. He had one huge game again Washington in Week 7 (8 catches for 164 yards and 1 TD) but has been pretty average otherwise. Still, if you have Evans on your roster you probably are in a position where you have to start him. In this match-up you'd be starting him anyway, but if he doesn't perform here against the Giants' porous pass defense -- 21st in fantasy points allowed to WRs -- you'll have to be really concerned.
We could see the return of Austin Seferian-Jenkins from a shoulder injury this week and it would be a great match-up for him to come back to. The Giants' defense has given up the 2nd most fantasy points per game to TEs, right behind the Raiders, and just allowed Benjamin Watson to put up 9 catches for 147 yards and a TD. If Seferian-Jenkins makes it into the lineup this week he might instantly be a Top-10 option and would be a good, cheap play in DFS.
Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers - Nov. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 49
Chicago: Jay Cutler has been nothing if not consistent since exiting the Bears' Week 2 game with a hamstring injury and missing Week 3 completely. Since coming back in Week 4, he's put up fantasy point totals of 22, 23, 22 and 21 in the past four games. This week he goes up against a Chargers defense that looked strong against the pass early-on but has had some issues in the past several games. They're now ranked 13th against the pass in yards per game and are middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to QBs, but I think Chicago is going to have to score here in a game where Philip Rivers and the Chargers should be able to put up some points against the Bears' defense. Cutler is a nice bye-week replacement here.
Fantasy owners can't be more excited to see that WR Alshon Jeffery waited to return to the field until he was 100%, as he's put up two monster games since coming back from injury. Here are his stat-lines in those two games: 8 catches for 147 yards and 1 TD in Week 6 and 10 catches for 116 yards and 1 TD in Week 8. Now, the Chargers are ranked 8th in fantasy points allowed to WRs on the season and CB Jason Verrett will probably be on Jeffery for most of this game, but with how he's playing there's no way you're getting away from him. Jeffery should get in the neighborhood of 10 targets per game going forward and he's in the Top-5 range at WR for the rest of the season.
TE Martellus Bennett has been quiet this year and really hasn't lived up to his draft slot. He's only had two games with double digits in fantasy points and has 5 or less in all of the others. San Diego isn't great against TEs and have given up the 11th most fantasy points to that position, but I just don't know how you trust Bennett here. You can roll him out there and hope for a TD and even though there's several guys with more upside -- Benjamin Watson, Delanie Walker, Heath Miller and Julius Thomas to name a few -- he's still right there in the TE1 mix.
As a part of the tidal wave of injuries recently, RB Matt Forte left the Bears' Week 8 game against Minnesota with a knee injury. Forte hasn't practiced yet this week and it sounds like this could be a multiple week issue, leaving the door open for someone else to get a decent amount of reps in Chicago's backfield for the first time in a while. The first bet is on rookie Jeremy Langford, who will get the pleasure of making his first NFL start against a truly terrible run defense. The Chargers are 27th in rushing yards per game allowed and are giving up a league worst 5.0 yards per carry. They're also allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs, so Forte owners have to be going crazy that he's missing this game. As for Langford, it's hard to know what he's going to look like with at least a decent workload, but I think you can pencil him in as a RB2 this week.
San Diego: Philip Rivers has been a machine this year and the only thing he's not churning out for the Chargers right now are wins. He's the #2 QB in standard leagues behind only Tom Brady and he's had at least 20 fantasy points in every game except one and at least 25 in all but two. Rivers is going up a Bears defense this week that is actually ranked 4th in passing yards allowed per game but has given up 16 passing TDs to only 4 INTs, pushing them all the way down to 25th in fantasy points per game against QBs. The only thing that makes me pause with Rivers going forward is the loss of Keenan Allen, who's out for the year with a kidney injury. Allen was putting up some monster numbers in this offense and while I think Rivers' numbers probably take a hit, he should still be a Top-8 QB for the rest of the season.
The receivers that will attempt to replace Keenan Allen's production (for the most part) will be Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd. Floyd seems like he's 100 years old, but he still manages to catch a deep ball every now and then. He's not a reliable option at this point in his career, but I think Floyd can be a useful piece as a WR3 or flex option for the rest of the year. Johnson is the one I'm really interested in though, as I think he will get a lot of the volume that Allen was seeing. He'll get a lot of snaps in the slot and should see a lot of short passes (like Allen). The Bears have given up the 5th most fantasy points per game to WRs, so both guys are useful this week. Keep an eye on this situation to see how it progresses in the second half of the season.
TEs Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green should see an uptick in usage as a result of the Allen injury as well. The Bears have actually been pretty strong against the TE and are 5th in fantasy points allowed per game to that position, but you're definitely not benching Gates if he plays. He did miss Week 7 and appeared limited last week as he continues to recover from an MCL injury, but if he is able to get on the field then you have to start him, for his touchdown potential if nothing else. If he can't go, Green is an obvious start and will likely be a good value in DFS. After the bye in Week 10, Gates should hopefully be back to full health and I would expect to see a lot of 2-TE sets for San Diego with both guys on the field.
The truly unfortunate part about this game is that there may be nobody to take advantage of a sieve like Bears' run defense. While they're ranked 9th in fantasy points allowed to RBs (due to only giving up 2 rushing TDs so far), Chicago is 29th in rushing yards allowed per game and is giving up 4.7 ypc. RB Branden Oliver is now out for the season with an ankle injury, so most of the carries should go to disappointing rookie Melvin Gordon and if there was ever a time for him to break out, it would be against this defense at home on Monday night. I would cautiously use him as a low-end RB2 or flex this week. The other back here is Danny Woodhead, who is coming off a disappointing 3 point effort against the Ravens. Despite that, Woodhead will see the field a lot and is trusted by Rivers and the Chargers' coaches, so you should still view him as a RB2 here.