Bye week-apocalypse: Round 2. Once again, six teams are on hiatus. This is not a welcomed sight for gamers who may have to choose between keeping stashes and filling lineup holes.
On vacation in Week 9: Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins
Gamers will be missing a tremendous amount of offensive talent this week, unlike last week when, despite a lot of byes, the overall player hit wasn’t that significant.
Ownership rates are in parentheses.
QB Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns vs. Dallas Cowboys (3 percent)
McCown will benefit from the expected return of Corey Coleman, who was cleared, and Terrelle Pryor Sr.’s hamstring woes being in the past. Add Gary Barnidge at tight end, plus Duke Johnson as a pass-receiving running back to the mix, and we’re are looking at a cast of weapons capable of doing some damage.
Dallas is on the docket in Week 9, and this will be a good litmus test for the next month before Cleveland goes on a Week 13 vacation. The Browns take on Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Giants, respectively, after Dallas. Circling back to the Cowboys, this defense will be without safety Barry Church (arm) and likely not have cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin).
McCown will make mistakes, but he also will throw a bunch and should see garbage time in the month ahead. Points are points, and in the heart of bye weeks, we cannot always be picky about who butters our bread.
TE Lance Kendricks, Los Angeles Rams vs. Carolina Panthers (1 percent)
Coming off a bye, the Rams host Carolina, also known as fantasy’s worst tight end defense over the past five weeks. Kendricks has been targeted 17 times in his last two outings, and 27 over his past four. He has PPR appeal for desperate gamers who will be without the likes of Zach Miller, Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed.
The Panthers have given up five touchdowns to tight ends in their past four games, which comes at a clip of one every 4.4 receptions. That is in Kendricks’ wheelhouse to exploit — low-volume work with high probability to find the end zone.
Make it a fling
RBs Antone Smith (1 percent) and Peyton Barber (7 percent), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs lost Jacquizz Rodgers for an unspecified time due to a foot sprain, which contributed to Smith earning 22 snaps to Barber’s three in Week 8. Both backs have shown flashes of talent, with the 31-year-old Smith having an obviously longer track record than the 5-foot-11, 225-pound rookie.
The short week leads to being more speculative, so lean toward Smith first. He’s versatile and just two seasons ago showed to be a big play waiting to happen when he played limited snaps for the Atlanta Falcons. Slide into Barber’s DMs after missing your chance with Smith, and hooking up with both isn’t such a bad thing if you have room in your fantasy bed.
Speaking of the Falcons … Tampa’s opponent Thursday night has given up eight touchdowns (two receiving) to running backs over the past five weeks. This is the fifth most generous matchup for PPR backs in Week 9.
QB Ryan Tannehill (22 percent) and WR DeVante Parker (58 percent), Miami Dolphins
It’s like when you’re playing the field and times get tough … you end up finding yourself coming back to a past relationship or late-night call with whom you may not have recently, ahem, “spoken.” Once enough time lapses, it can go either way — either you’re welcomed back with open arms and warm sheets, or the door is slammed in your grill.
So what is the next step? Put out signals … flirt, if you will. Test the waters. You are looking for a reciprocal reaction. It’s no different in this case. This Dolphins duo is that ex or past fling: Times are tough, and while you realize a relationship is a bad ideal, crawling back under the covers, or wherever your preferred locale, Tannehill and Parker need to return to your recent contacts list.
A quick-and-dirty start to the year helped reinforce preseason optimism, only to be put on ice after a month of unacceptable play. Look forward, forget the past, and have some fun: New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers. The Dolphins have discovered the running game and had a week off to fine-tune the passing attack to get this aerial couple back in business.
RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (48 percent)
The prized rookie averaged nine touches per game over the first three weeks to start the season and then ghosted fantasy owners. He touched the rock 15 total times over his next four games, averaging 3.5 yards per carry or less in this team.
In Week 8, however, a toe injury cost DeMarco Murray several series and led to 20 touches for Henry. While he still averaged only 3.8 yards per tote, and it was against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the punishing runner showed he can get it done.
Murray returned to the game and should be fine for Week 9 after tests came back negative. That doesn’t mean Henry won’t continue to see work to keep the vet fresh. There is some fear that he is a volume player and needs 15-20 touches to produce, which may very well be the case, but he should be a matchup play through Tennessee’s Week 13 bye.
Put a ring on that thing
QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (62 percent)
I’ve been on record saying several times over this wild ride of Prescott’s that it would be an upset for the Cowboys to turn to Tony Romo. Last night’s comeback win — with late-game heroics, no less — cemented this belief. In fact, that final TD pass was Romo-ish of Prescott.
There probably would be a mutiny in the locker room if Romo returns to the lineup. At any rate, Prescott has played well enough for gamers to be in fantasy starting lineups more often than not. He has only one game with less than 20 points, which was his very first pro start. Even when he was at his worst, Prescott pulled it together and mustered a career-best fantasy day in Week 8.
TE Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (37 percent)
Ebron’s return to the lineup comes at the detriment of Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate. The third-year tight end has been targeted seven times per game in 2016, catching 25 balls for 289 yards and a score. He returned with a bang against the Texans with a season-best 10 targets (7-79-0).
The Lions have a Week 10 bye, but the rest of the season offers matchups solid enough for an offense that uses the short-passing game to make up for a lack of effectiveness running the ball. PPR owners should consider him a weekly starting option.
The big tease
RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (99 percent)
In fairness to Ingram, I’m not sure this is necessarily the best heading for his roller coaster fantasy season. He has been so inconsistent that fantasy owners go from viewing him as a reasonable play each week to someone who may leave them scratching.
Ingram’s role is in jeopardy after he was benched for fumbling in Week 8 and his backup, Tim Hightower, managed 102 yards. Head coach Sean Payton confirmed Hightower will have a larger involvement going forward.
Grounds for divorce
WR Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs (94 percent)
Cutting Maclin is not an option, but starting him hasn’t exactly been a safe choice, either. He was targeted 10 times, catching merely three of them, for 43 yards in Week 8. Maclin scored a touchdown to salvage fantasy value, but it was his first since Week 1.
The best policy is hope he has a big game this week versus the Jaguars and look to unload the veteran for whatever best helps your roster. Use this past week in combination with an assumed strong game against Jacksonville as a selling point that his season is turning around. The schedule gets much tougher down the stretch, with two matchups against Denver during the remainder of the fantasy season.