The fantasy football season has passed the halfway mark and it’s time to get serious about the playoff race. We’ve only got about a month of the regular season left, so playing the matchups and getting smart about waiver wire pickups will be more important than ever.
This week’s big injury news doesn’t involve a quarterback or a running back, but tight end Zach Miller, whose leg bent in gruesome fashion while catching a touchdown pass (that was overturned on replay). Miller suffered a dislocated knee and punctured artery, needing emergency surgery to save the leg altogether. His season is over and his career is in question.
You probably weren’t starting Miller in 12-team leagues, but it leaves the Chicago Bears without a reliable pass-catcher, and further thins a tight end fantasy pool with next-to-no depth.
Heading into Week 9, we’ve got six more teams on bye, and there’s a lot of star power that fantasy owners have to account for. Here’s a quick rundown of the notable players who won’t be available this week.
Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen
Cleveland Browns: Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, David Njoku
Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates
Minnesota Vikings: Case Keenum, Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jesse James
Needless to say, there are probably going to be a lot of holes in your rosters this week, so it’s time to hit the waiver wire. Here are the top five options in Week 9, owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
1. RB Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens (34 percent)
With 143 total yards on 18 touches, Collins left no doubt as to who the Ravens’ best running back is. He did a great job carrying the offense on his back in last Thursday’s 40-0 win over the Miami Dolphins, chewing up clock and moving the chains. The only drawback is that Javorius Allen is still around and gets all the passing-down work — Collins’ two receptions are his first of the season. Despite that concern, Collins is the clear lead back and should continue getting strong workloads, especially if Joe Flacco isn’t cleared to play this week. He’s played himself onto the RB2 radar.
2. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (48 percent)
Martavis who? Smith-Schuster got his chance to win the No. 2 receiver job when the Steelers benched Martavis Bryant amid trade rumors. He proceeded to have his best game yet, roasting the Detroit Lions for 193 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Still only 20 years old, the sky is the limit for Smith-Schuster, who should be one of the hottest assets in dynasty leagues right now. The only reason he’s not at No. 1 on this list is because the Steelers are on bye, but Smith-Schuster will be in play as a WR3 when he faces the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10.
3. RB Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (44 percent)
34-year-old Frank Gore keeps chugging along, making plays no matter how often fantasy people try to write him off. Even with Mack eating into his workload, and the Colts’ offense falling apart, Gore still had 101 total yards on 20 touches against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a setback for Mack, but he still produced with 14 touches for 63 total yards and a touchdown. Fantasy owners should keep holding out for Mack, who’s too good to keep off the field entirely. The Colts’ next matchup is with the Houston Texans.
4. WR Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks (31 percent)
Richardson quietly scored three times in the past two games and is up to five touchdowns on the season. Finally healthy and earning the trust of Russell Wilson, he’s emerged as a sneaky-good end zone target even if the yardage isn’t always there. Richardson had a season-best game with 105 yards and two touchdowns on six catches against the Texans. His scoring upside is why I give him the nod over Tyler Lockett, who also had a huge game but has been wildly inconsistent this year. Another productive game against Washington could be on tap for Richardson and the Seahawks.
5. TE Vernon Davis, Washington (12 percent)
Stop me if you heard this before: Jordan Reed is injured and unlikely to play this week. Yes, Reed picked up yet another injury, this time pulling his hamstring. Jay Gruden has already said he doesn’t expect Reed in Week 9, so that gives the starting job to Davis, who’s always been productive while filling in for Reed in the past. In a week with six bye teams and more injuries at the position, Davis could be a legitimate TE1 play in most league formats. The big problem is that he’s facing the Legion of Boom, but things might open up if Earl Thomas misses time with a hamstring injury of his own.
Honorable mentions: Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Jared Goff, Orleans Darkwa, Matt Forte, Cooper Kupp, Josh Doctson, Tyler Lockett, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Robby Anderson, Josh McCown