Identifying possible busts ahead of your fantasy start ’em, sit ’em decisions is how you avoid having disastrous weeks. There are a number of factors that can make things go wrong for fringe starters, and we factored in all kinds of different variables — matchups, injuries, usage trends when putting together our Week 9 fantasy busts lists, which features such disparate names as Adrian Peterson and Patrick Mahomes. We also list up-and-coming guys like Michael Carter and Dan Arnold as players to think twice about when making start ’em, sit ’em decisions.
As always, even perennial stars can bust in favorable matchups, but it’s tough to call superstars “busts” unless they’ve really been trending downward (like Mahomes has been). We mostly stick to naming guys on the start-or-sit bubble — not guys who are simply going to have a good-but-not-great week and not guys who are on over 90 percent of waiver wires. Sometimes you don’t have the depth to reasonably bench these guys (or you might just totally disagree with our assessments), especially in a week like this.
WEEK 9 FANTASY: Sleepers | Start ’em, sit ’em
In Week 8, we mostly had a successful selection of busts. Khalil Herbert and Antonio Gibson got us off to a hot start, as Gibson’s shin continued to limit him, while Herbert was held without a touchdown and didn’t do enough in the receiving game to match some of his other performances. James Conner didn’t bust, as he scored two touchdowns, but our process was correct. He only saw five carries in a competitive game, but cheap goal-line touchdowns bailed him out. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were ineffective against strong defenses. Jakobi Meyers only netted a 4-37-0 line, and Mike Evans’ day was saved by a long touchdown in a two-catch day. Tight ends Jared Cook, Dalton Schultz, and Mike Gesicki can also be considered wins in our column. The Carolina and New England defenses were our biggest misses.
After a strong performance, we’re back at it again. Remember, we won’t select obvious choices, but guys that are reasonably on the start ’em, sit ’em bubble.
WEEK 9 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
Week 9 Fantasy Busts: Running backs
Michael Carter, Jets @ Colts (Jackson Sparks). Carter put up 32.2 PPR fantasy points last week and has recorded 15 receptions over the past two weeks. If he is force fed with targets against Indianapolis, he can avoid busting. However, Indianapolis is the third-best defense in fantasy points per game (FPPG) allowed to RBs and hasn’t given up more than three receptions to RBs this season. On the ground, it has only allowed Derrick Henry and Elijah Mitchell to rush for over 100 yards since the start of the 2018 season. So, again, Carter’s only path to fantasy success is in PPR leagues with a bunch of easy targets, but Indianapolis should do a good job at shutting that down.
Khalil Herbert/David Montgomery, Bears at Steelers (Vinnie Iyer). Here’s to not feeling any good rushing production with Justin Fields in a brutal road Monday matchup.
Adrian Peterson, Titans @ Rams (Lutovsky). AP’s return is a fun story, but the 36-year-old back is unlikely to play anywhere close to a full complement of snaps in his first game with Tennessee. He could easily get a short TD, but against the Rams’ 11th-ranked run defense, he’s not going to get many yards or fantasy points, especially in PPR formats.
WEEK 9 STANDARD RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
Week 9 Fantasy Football Busts: Quarterbacks
Kirk Cousins, Vikings @ Ravens (Sparks). Cousins is a boom-or-bust quarterback, and when’s he’s on a cold streak, it’s best to avoid him. The Ravens have been exposed by a few quarterbacks this year, but we expect them to be ready to go coming off of a bye week. Playing in Baltimore is no easy task, this Minnesota passing attack looked out of sorts against Dallas.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals at 49ers. (Iyer) You’re still playing him but no running and shaky passing with an ankle injury makes you nervous he won’t put up QB1 numbers again.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs vs. Packers (Lutovsky). Looks weird, right? We know it’s tough to ever bench Mahomes, but something is going on with the former MVP. He’s turned in back-to-back poor fantasy performances and has failed to top two TDs in his past four games. We know he’s capable of a huge performance in any given week — and you’ll feel like a complete moron if you bench him for, say Tua Tagovailoa or Taysom Hill and he goes off — but the Packers just shut down Kyler Murray and are allowing the fourth-fewest FPPG to QBs. Mahomes isn’t necessarily a “must-start” this week.
WEEK 9 DFS LINEUPS: FanDuel | DraftKings | Yahoo
Week 9 Fantasy Football Busts: Wide receivers
DeVonta Smith, Eagles vs. Chargers (Sparks). The Chargers have given up just three touchdowns to wide receivers this year, and none of them were given up to “No. 1” receivers. Smith has scored fewer than 5.2 fantasy points in four-of-eight games this year, and against the excellent secondary of the Chargers, how can we expect anything more than that? Los Angeles ranks as a top-three unit against fantasy WRs.
Adam Thielen, Vikings at Ravens (Iyer). This is more of a Justin Jefferson game as the Ravens won’t let Marlon Humphrey get exposed by his speed and drop into the slot to take Thielen away from Kirk Cousins.
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots @ Panthers (Lutovsky). We keep waiting for Meyers’ steady stream of targets to translate into more fantasy points, but he still hasn’t scored in his NFL career and he’s topped 70 receiving yards just once this season. You can argue he’s “due,” but at least in standard leagues, he’s merely a low-ceiling depth piece.
Week 9 Fantasy Football Busts: Tight ends
Dan Arnold, Jaguars vs. Bills (Sparks). As mentioned with Michael Carter above, Arnold’s only path to fantasy success is in PPR leagues if he draws a ton of easy targets for minimal yards. However, against an elite Bills’ defense, we don’t feel comfortable trusting Arnold in this matchup. Buffalo is has given up the seventh-fewest FPPG to tight ends this season, and only Logan Thomas and Travis Kelce have scored against its defense. To keep it simple, Arnold is no Kelce or Thomas.
Tyler Higbee, Rams vs. Titans (Iyer). This is a big-time wide receiver matchup for L.A. so no more Higbee love with Cooper Kupp balling inside.
Zach Ertz, Cardinals @ 49ers (Lutovsky). Ertz has been solid since going to Arizona, but with seven catches (nine targets) for 108 yards and a score, he’s yet to establish himself as a “must-start.” The 49ers allow the third fewest FPPG to tight ends, so Ertz is a risky play.
Week 9 Fantasy Busts: Defenses
Denver Broncos @ Cowboys (Sparks). Denver is a top-10 D/ST in FPPG this year, but Dallas has too much on offense to start anyone against them. Even with Cooper Rush, we saw Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Cedrick Wilson eat. Especially if Dak Prescott (calf) is back (and maybe Michael Gallup), bench any defense that is set to match up with the Cowboys. It’s also worth noting Von Miller will obviously not be rushing the passer for Denver as he was traded to the Rams.
Cleveland Browns at Bengals (Iyer). Don’t go chasing more picks and sacks of Joe Burrow when he’s comfortable at home.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Vikings (Lutovsky). Even when the Vikings struggle offensively, like they did last Sunday night, they don’t turn it over much or allow many sacks. In fact, they’ve turned it over just five times all season and haven’t allowed more than two sacks in a game since Week 1. Baltimore has some playmakers, but its floor and ceiling are much lower than usual this week.