Week 9 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
Some guys—well, you know to start them.
Guys like Calvin Johnson. Now, he might not catch 14 balls for 329 yards every week, but it's clear he is going to produce big numbers on a regular basis.
So, you know to start him. What about everyone else?
Some of our selections are big names, while others are lesser-known players. Some you might think are obvious, but others might surprise you. Keep in mind that you'll be without players from six teams this week—Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants and San Francisco due bye weeks.
Which means players who might not normally be in your lineup could be a good option.
So here are some guys to think of as bye-week replacements and others who you should avoid.
*all stats are drawn from NFL.com unless otherwise noted
Start 'Em: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are a middle-of-the-road team against the run, but this isn't just about yards on the ground.
In fact, Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard's value has been in large part about his receiving skills since the team is still splitting carries between him and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The Dolphins have a solid pass rush and have limited many of the running backs they've faced to under 100 yards, but most of those teams lacked the solid running game the Bengals have.
Cincinnati throws the ball a fair amount (279 pass plays to 222 run plays), which just further plays into the hands of a Bernard owner, since he's been targeted 33 times.
In fact, over the last three weeks, he's been targeted 15 times, and if the Jets game hadn't gotten out of hand early, his Sunday totals would have been much higher.
Expect his numbers to go back up and for him to serve as a solid flex with some No. 2 running back upside against Miami.
Sit 'Em: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
This is much more about the Chicago Bears quarterback situation than it is about Alshon Jeffery's ability.
He has looked tremendous this season since he went off for 107 yards and a touchdown in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions.
With the exception of a Week 6 against the New York Giants, Jeffery has been a huge factor in the offense.
However, with Josh McCown stepping into the starting gig against a tough Green Bay Packers team, and with Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett both having to eat (Bennett was the target on McCown's touchdown against Washington in Week 7), I just don't feel good about starting Jeffery, even if you've got bye week issues.
There is just too much going on that can hurt him to feel good with him in the lineup at all.
Start 'Em: Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Rookie Terrance Williams of the Dallas Cowboys is the real deal.
While we can expect some shifting of targets back to Dez Bryant this week, Williams had another productive game and his fourth straight with a touchdown. Hopefully he'll catch more of his targets (he had just two catches out of 10 opportunities against Detroit last week), but I am confident that he'll rebound in that area against the Vikings.
Williams has completely taken over for Miles Austin, and even when Austin is healthy, the truth is that he has lost the No. 2 spot to Williams. Targets will mostly go to Dez Bryant and then a combination of Jason Witten and Williams.
So if you have Williams on your roster, you don't even have to sweat a healthy Austin.
Minnesota can be thrown on, something the Green Bay Packers proved once again last Sunday night.
Their secondary is in disarray, and while they can get pressure on a quarterback, it isn't consistent.
Williams is a fantastic start this coming weekend, and frankly, probably at the point where "play him" isn't something anyone should have to tell you.
Sit 'Em: Eagles Passing Offense at Oakland Raiders
There's no way to avoid it—this whole offense is a mess.
Neither Mike Vick nor Matt Barkley are a solution for anyone in or out of fantasy right now. Hoping Nick Foles comes back this week from concussion is a dubious solution, as well.
LeSean McCoy hasn't scored in three games, and in the last two games has been well under 100 yards, while DeSean Jackson has also failed to score in the last two games and has just 84 yards over that span.
It's clear that the ineptitude at quarterback is hurting the other studs in the offense.
The fact is, you probably won't sit "Shady" McCoy, even though he is in what amounts to a two-game slump. You should hope he's getting yards on the ground next week as it doesn't seem likely he'll be racking up receiving yards.
The quarterbacks are bad, and they will continue to drag things down.
So it's best to just pass on anyone in the passing offense.
Start 'Em: Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles defense is bad. Maybe worse than bad.
While Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor is still far from a finished product, he's played very well the last few weeks, even though he was manhandled by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6.
His game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a bit of a bounce-back for him in many ways.
Pryor started off the tilt with a 93-yard touchdown run that made you forgot all about his three interceptions against Kansas City.
The run was the longest touchdown run from scrimmage in Raiders history.
Admittedly, his two interceptions put a damper on his 106-yard rushing day, as does the 88-yard passing total.
However, these are the Eagles, and it's a prime spot for a Pryor rebound. If you're in a bind because of injury or bye week, this is the time to slot Pryor in.
His legs make him very dangerous for a team with problems containing speed outside, and Pryor is capable of throwing a nice ball, even if he can't do it consistently just yet.
Sit 'Em: Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneer rookie running back Mike James had moments in a tough matchup against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, but mostly he struggled to find room to run against the Panthers' front seven.
He did average 3.9 yards per carry, which isn't bad, though on just 10 carries. James also caught three passes on five targets, but he was pulled off the field in every third-down situation, which limits his upside.
It's hard to imagine a scenario where he will find more success against the Seattle Seahawks. Normally, James could be a decent flex (until Doug Martin returns), but this week is one to avoid at all costs.
Start 'Em: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers at Washington Redskins
After a weekend where they played one half of solid defensive football against the Denver Broncos, Washington may not be the defensive pushover we thought they were.
Well, for the most part they still are, but they were also tremendously opportunistic this past weekend, picking off Peyton Manning three times.
Rivers has been very careful with the football this year with only five interceptions in seven games and none in the last two. He did have three in Week 5, but otherwise he's done a good job protecting the ball.
Despite the turnovers generated by Washington's DeAngelo Hall and Justin Pugh against Denver, you can feel pretty confident in starting Rivers.
Why so confident in a player going up against a defense which shut down Peyton Manning for a half?
Simply put, the fourth-quarter Washington collapse.
If you think about it, which is the more likely reality?
The one where Washington is finally a good defense and generating turnovers at a high clip?
Or the one where they were ahead and completely regressed in the fourth quarter?
Even allowing for the fact that Philip Rivers is not Peyton Manning, this is a rejuvenated Rivers, and head coach Mike McCoy has been able to completely resurrect the quarterback's career.
Add in the exceptionally talented Danny Woodhead with both Ryan Mathews and rookie Keenan Allen peaking at the right time, and you've got to love Rivers going up against a Washington defense which gives up a lot of yards and frequent points.
Sit 'Em: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals
We knew before the season that Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill would be a matchup play quarterback in terms of fantasy, and that's just what he's ended up as.
The added problem with Tannehill right now is that along with generally average-at-best yardage output, he's turning over the ball too much.
In facing Cincinnati, Tannehill has to deal with a terrific front seven while lining up behind a No. 32-ranked offensive line that has allowed him to be hit 48 times for 32 sacks (the most sacks in the NFL).
His offensive line just can't be trusted, especially against a good defense like the Bengals. With so many teams on byes this week, you might be tempted to throw Tannehill in to cover for your quarterback.
Stay away from him this week and wait for a better matchup.
Start 'Em: Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans
The St. Louis Rams may have lost the game Monday night (a fade to Brian Quick, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer? REALLY?) but that shouldn't take away from the coming-out party rookie running back Zac Stacy had on a national stage.
Stacy carried the ball 26 times for 134 yards and looked very good doing it. The Seahawks defense looked off, but it's still no joke, and Stacy was nigh unstoppable. He showed tremendous power, good speed and great vision.
The Tennessee Titans are the league's No. 23-ranked run defense and have allowed eight touchdowns on the ground so far this year.
This is a great spot to plug Stacy in, and he should continue his streak of good games for you this coming weekend. He's a pretty solid No. 2 running back right now and could have some upside, as well.
Sit 'Em: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Over the last two weeks, DeAngelo Williams has seen his carries and total yards drop. Meanwhile, Cam Newton has become more effective and efficient, and the offense is humming along without Williams having big games.
One factor is Mike Tolbert, the guy stealing carries and touchdowns away from Williams. While Williams has just one touchdown all season, Tolbert has two in the last three games.
Williams may get more involved again, but it looks like even if he does, it's going to be a marginal amount because of guys like Tolbert, Newton and eventually Jonathan Stewart.
Even against a relatively woeful Atlanta Falcons run defense, there's just not enough to go around to justify starting Williams.
Keep him on your bench.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.