The Tennessee Titans have claimed WR Randy Moss, who was waived by the Vikings earlier this week. Among Moss’ reported transgressions in Minnesota were excessively praising the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick following a Week 8 loss; acting like a jerk toward a local restaurateur in the team’s locker room after last Friday’s practice; and possibly being a bad influence on the team’s younger players.
It’s too bad the Jets didn’t claim Moss, because HBO could have begun filming a second, priceless season of Hard Knocks right away. It would be easy to picture Rex Ryan saying, “Hey, Randy – let’s go eat a g*ddamn snack!”, followed by Moss calling Ryan fat and berating the nearest snack machine attendant. Actually, forget HBO – that would easily be worth 20 bucks on pay-per-view.
As noted previously, each position below will have a list of weekly “must starts” to go along with the usual recommendations. They’re players that warrant “no-think” fantasy status due to talent, workloads or both, regardless of opponent. The lists are subject to change, but additions and deletions will be made sparingly. Also, if a player is ever “removed until further notice,” it doesn’t mean you need to bench him; it just indicates that his status has become a week-to-week proposition that depends on the rest of your roster.
If you disagree with any of the selections, or want to offer some of your own, please post a comment at the bottom of the page. We’ll be here every Thursday until the end of your fantasy season.
Week 9 byes: Broncos, Jaguars, 49ers, Rams, Titans, Redskins.
Almost there: Ben Roethlisberger. Also, if Michael Vick has a huge game in his return to action this week, he’ll probably be added to the list. A few of you gave us a lot of grief about omitting Vick when he was healthy.
Start him: Eli Manning, Giants
Manning has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback this season, but usually starts in somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of leagues. This week is a good time to get him in your lineup, as the Giants travel to Seattle for a battle with the 29th-ranked Seahawks’ pass defense.
Manning has thrown nine touchdowns in his last three games, and many of his 11 interceptions this season have been due to drops/tips by his otherwise talented receivers. Peyton’s little brother is making a darkhorse MVP run, and ought to rack up some nice numbers in the season’s second half.
Sit him: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Last week’s free-agent darling struggled against the Chiefs in Week 8, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 223 yards, a touchdown and an interception. This week, Fitzpatrick would seem to have a good matchup against the Bears, who bring the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense (216 yards per game) to a faux Bills home game in Toronto. Look a little closer, and you’ll see that the Bears have been among the league’s stingiest in passing touchdowns allowed (four TDs, ranked first), yards per pass play (6.0, tied for first) and QB rating (69.2, second). The bet here is that Fitzpatrick will struggle to put up fantasy-friendly numbers in Week 9.
Pick him up: Jason Campbell, Raiders
It’s hard to pick up quarterbacks at this time of year, since most of them are already owned in fantasy leagues. The Raiders are saying that Bruce Gradkowski will be their starter when he returns in a couple of weeks from a shoulder injury. The way Campbell has been playing – throwing for 514 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two games, with the Silver and Black amassing 82 points – don’t be so sure. If you’re scrambling for a second QB, grab Campbell (owned in 38.2 percent of FoxSports.com leagues) and hope he keeps the job. Gradkowski is owned in just 6.1 percent of leagues, and he could be an option down the road as well.
Must starts (8): Adrian Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Arian Foster, Michael Turner, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Peyton Hillis, Ahmad Bradshaw (Note: Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson merit inclusion in this space, but they all have byes in Week 9.)
Removed until further notice: Cedric Benson
Start him: Fred Jackson, Bills
The Bears’ run defense is no slouch, either, allowing just 89.3 yards per game (fifth-best in the league). However, the best chance a back has for fantasy success is to get the ball a lot, and Jackson has touched the ball 47 times (43 carries, four receptions) in his last two games. He’s a solid start this week, especially if you also have one of the big bye-week backs.
Sit him: Cedric Benson, Bengals
See that note above about fantasy success for a running back depending on workload? We’re making an exception for Benson, who ranks seventh in the league in carries with 143. Benson is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and has gained more than 81 yards just once this season. More importantly, he’s about to run into the ferocious Steeler defense, which is leading the league BY FAR in yards per carry (2.6) and yards per game allowed (58.9). Imagine someone handing you a football, then looking up and seeing a giant brick wall between you and your destination. That’s what Benson is about to face, and it’s why you should give him a week off if you have decent alternatives.
Pick him up: Chester Taylor, Bears
The Bears know they haven’t been running well, so offensive coordinator Mike Martz said last week that Taylor would be the team’s goal-line back moving forward, and also noted that he wants to get Taylor and Matt Forte in the game together more often. The Bears’ poor offensive line play makes this a dicey proposition for any back, but with Forte having rushed for more than 50 yards in just one of seven games so far, would you be surprised if Taylor started touching the ball a dozen times per game? Taylor is available in most leagues, and is worth a shot if you can get him. He’s a wait-and-see type, though, so don’t start him right away unless you’re really desperate.
Also: See the Benson note above? Podcast colleague Mike Harmon thinks Bengals’ pass-catching back Bernard Scott could play a role against the Steelers if Benson gets stuffed too often. If you’re in a PPR pinch, Scott could be an option.
Must starts (13): (WR – 10) Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks, Anquan Boldin; (TE – 3) Antonio Gates, Zach Miller, Jason Witten (Note: Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis merit inclusion in this space, but they have byes in Week 9.)
Removed until further notice: Randy Moss
Start him: Johnny Knox, Bears
The Bears like to throw, and Knox has become Jay Cutler’s favorite option, getting targeted 11 times in Week 6 and 12 times in Week 7. The second-year wideout was on plenty of fantasy benches before the Bears’ bye, and that needs to change. You don’t want the No. 1 receiver in a Martz offense? Have you ever heard of Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt? Cutler’s no Kurt Warner, but still...
Also: Since returning from an injury hiatus three games ago, Lions WR Nate Burleson (owned in 36.9 percent of FoxSports.com leagues) has been targeted 24 times and caught 17 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. QB Matthew Stafford seemed to look for Burleson quite a bit as a safety valve last week, so Burleson should be a nice spot starter in PPR leagues … Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe was more involved in the offense before Randy Moss’ arrival (17 targets, 11 receptions in three games) than after it (18 targets, nine receptions in four games). Look for Shiancoe to get busy again, and start him if you have him.
Sit him: Mike Williams, Seahawks
After hauling in 21 combined passes for 200 yards and a score in Weeks 6 and 7, Williams caught one ball in Week 8, when people had finally become convinced that he should start. Thanks a lot, Mike. You shouldn’t have.
This week, the Giants will bring their No. 2-ranked pass defense to Seattle. Justin Tuck & Co. have notched 24 sacks this season, and that seems like a bad match for a Seahawks team that let Matt Hasselbeck get dragged down eight times last week. We like Williams to start in most weeks – just not this one, since the passing yards could be scarce.
Pick him up: Brandon Gibson, Rams
Mark Clayton is done for the season, Danario Alexander will probably miss a couple more weeks following knee surgery, and rookie Mardy Gilyard might not play a role until later in the season, if he does at all. Right now, QB Sam Bradford’s remaining receiving options are Gibson, Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola. Amendola is more of a possession guy than Gibson and Robinson, and we prefer Gibson from that duo. Bradford is averaging 36.5 pass attempts per game, so someone’s gotta catch the ball, right? After seeing Gibson notch six receptions for 67 yards in Week 8, we think he’s worth a claim, even though the Rams are off this week. Remember that Gibson caught 34 passes for 348 yards over the final eight games of 2009 – he’s not bad, and you can get him in just about any league you want.
Good luck in Week 9!
John Halpin writes his “Wide Write” fantasy football column every week during the NFL season for FoxNews.com. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FoxSports.com/fantasy, and co-hosts a daily fantasy podcast. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37), or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.