Making lineup decisions can be the most frustrating or most rewarding part of fantasy football. Here to help you make those decisions are our start ’em and sit ’em picks. Lineup decisions are crucial as fantasy managers make that playoff push. Let’s take a look at our early Week 9 start/sit plays.

Start ‘Em Picks for Week 9

C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans (vs. TB)

Between the dismal state of quarterbacking the NFL (and, as a result, fantasy) and three fantasy starters on bye this week, it’s rough out there for managers without an elite QB. That leaves someone like C.J. Stroud firmly ranked inside the top 12 for Week 9.

Stroud has cooled off since his three straight weeks of 20+ fantasy points in Weeks 2-4. His best outing since then has been 15.16. Last week, in a plum matchup against the Panthers, he threw for 140 scoreless yards. Here’s to hoping things get better against the Bucs’ pass-funnel defense.

MORE: Yates’ Fantasy Football Updated QB Rest-of-Season Rankings Week 9

The Buccaneers are elite against the run but below average against the pass. They allow 18.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, the 11th most in the league.

Given the inability of the Texans to run the ball against literally anyone, it’s difficult to imagine them having any success against a team that stifles opposing running games. That should lead to more volume for Stroud, giving him a good shot at a QB1 finish.

Zack Moss, RB, Indianapolis Colts (at CAR)

Somehow, Dameon Pierce managed to flop against the Panthers. That’s a talent issue — not a Panthers can suddenly stop the run issue.

Zack Moss is a better running back than Pierce, and the Colts have a far better offensive line. Even with Jonathan Taylor back to full strength, Moss is not going away. He played a season-low 39% of the snaps last week but still ripped off 66 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Even after shutting down Pierce last week, Carolina still allows the second-most points per game to running backs. Taylor is going to eat this week, but there should be plenty of leftovers available for Moss as well.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers (vs. IND)

For the second start at the RB position, we stick with the same game. Chuba Hubbard is not going to blow anyone away with his talent, but the volume is now there.

Hubbard seized full control of the Panthers’ backfield last week, playing 67% of the snaps even with Miles Sanders healthy. Hubbard out-carried Sanders 15-2 and ran 11 more routes than he did. While Hubbard only managed 7.4 fantasy points, the 17 opportunities are what we care about.

This week, Hubbard should fare much better against a Colts defense allowing the fourth-most ppg to running backs. Chase the volume in a great matchup.

Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans (vs. TB)

Continuing with the theme of not starting running backs against the Bucs but attacking them through the air, Nico Collins should be in line for a nice bounce-back week.

Collins had a rough outing against Carolina, catching just four passes for 30 yards. But he remains the Texans’ WR1.

This week should be much better, as Houston should somehow struggle to run the ball even more. That should result in more volume for Collins against a Buccaneers pass defense allowing the ninth-most ppg to wide receivers.

Consider Collins a locked-in WR2 this week.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. CHI)

I wasn’t sure exactly how to attack this Bears defense, but I knew I wanted to. In the interest of full disclosure, I was deciding between whether to recommend Michael Thomas or Rashid Shaheed. I went with Thomas because of what we saw last week with the Chargers.

Los Angeles attacked Chicago’s defense by using a lot of underneath stuff. They didn’t really push the ball downfield, instead opting to dink and dunk the Bears to death. Well, that is where Thomas thrives.

Thomas’ average depth of target is well outside the top 50. He was never one for efficiency. But if there ever was a week where he could volume his way to actually scoring more than 13 fantasy points, this is the one.

Luke Musgrave, TE, Green Bay Packers (vs. LAR)

Miraculously, Luke Musgrave was able to return from an ankle sprain that had him in a walking boot as late as Thursday. He didn’t appear limited at all, either, playing 72% of the snaps.

The real limitation was Jordan Love’s inability to move the ball. I’m expecting better results against a Rams defense that really struggles against tight ends.

MORE: Week 9 TE Waiver Wire Targets

The Rams allow the seventh-most ppg to the position. No team has allowed a higher percentage of receiving yards to go to tight ends than L.A. (26.8%).

It’s entirely possible Love is incapable of taking advantage, but on a week where there are seldom few reliable options at tight end, Musgrave is a very sneaky start.

Sit ‘Em Picks for Week 9

Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers (vs. LAR)

If you read the write-up on Stroud, you know how difficult it is to find quarterbacks to recommend as sits this week. It’s a very difficult week. So if you need to start Love, I get it. There are far worse options.

With that said, he’s not a good quarterback. Love’s fantasy success early in the season was a mirage predicated on an unsustainable touchdown rate. His underlying metrics were concerning, and we’re seeing regression hit him hard.

After at least 19 fantasy points in his first four games, Love hasn’t topped 16 since. In those games, Love is averaging fewer than 200 passing yards per game.

The Rams aren’t a bad matchup by any stretch. They’re allowing the ninth-most ppg to QBs. However, a big part of that is due to them getting torched by Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb last week. Forgive me for not believing Love can do the same thing.

This one is more about the player than the matchup. Love is an uninspiring option at the QB position this week.

Emari Demercado, RB, Arizona Cardinals (at CLE)

After randomly playing behind Keaontay Ingram in Week 6, Emari Demercado has now spent two weeks as the Cardinals’ lead back. We have every reason to believe he’s got at least one more in him until James Conner could potentially return.

Unfortunately, the situation couldn’t be worse.

The Browns allow the 10th-fewest ppg to running backs. Additionally, head coach Jonathan Gannon announced that Joshua Dobbs was benched. Any doubt surrounding that reality was put to rest when the Cardinals traded Dobbs to the Vikings ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.

While Dobbs is obviously nothing special, he was competent enough to move the offense. Yet, it seems that with Kyler Murray still one week away, Arizona wants to give rookie Clayton Tune an audition.

I mean…sure? Why not? The season is obviously over. But it’s not good for anyone on this offense.

Between the rookie QB and the challenging opponent, Demercado is set up to disappoint in Week 9. Fantasy managers may have no choice but to start him, but expectations need to be tempered.

Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary, RBs, Houston Texans (vs. TB)

Well, if you read the start portion of this, you already know where this is headed.

Dameon Pierce is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry and repeatedly gets stuffed at the goal line. He doesn’t catch any passes (just nine on the season and no targets in his last two games).

Pierce’s fantasy value stemmed from volume, and Devin Singletary has eaten into his workload enough to completely sap any semblance of Pierce’s fantasy value but not enough to establish any of his own.

MORE: Fantasy Football Cut List Week 9

Based on that alone, both of these guys should be benched, regardless of matchup. But the matchup is about as bad as it gets.

The Bucs allow just 17.1 ppg to running backs, seventh fewest in the league. And those points are being split between Pierce and Singletary.

Tampa Bay also struggles against the pass. Not only should that compel the Texans to throw more, it could lead to an increase in snaps for Mike Boone, which would really ensure Pierce and Singletary don’t produce. This backfield is just a complete avoid for fantasy.

Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings (at ATL)

Unsurprisingly, there’s no way Dobbs would have been able to digest enough of the Vikings’ playbook to be able to start on five days’ notice. That means it will be rookie Jaren Hall under center, at least for this week.

We’re probably looking at a very watered-down, run-heavy approach for Minnesota this week. That means Jordan Addison is unlikely to produce at the level he has been with Kirk Cousins since Justin Jefferson went down.

You probably can’t afford to bench Addison, given the teams on bye this week. But if you can, I’m very concerned about his ability to produce.

Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders (at NE)

I legitimately hope I get this call wrong and Jahan Dotson is here to stay. Unfortunately, I just don’t think he is.

Last week, Dotson had the best game of his career, catching eight of 10 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. It was also against the most generous pass defense to wide receivers.

The Patriots are an above-average matchup for wide receivers, but still much tougher than the Eagles.

Prior to last week, Dotson hadn’t topped 43 receiving yards in a game. He was consistently being treated as nothing more than a desperation WR4 play. After one week, I’m cautioning fantasy managers against declaring his breakout back on.

I would sit Dotson this week as we find out how real last week’s performance was.

Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears (at NO)

Cole Kmet has been the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde tight end this season. In Weeks 1-3, he saw his production decline each week, failing to crack double digits in all three games.

Then, in Weeks 4 and 5, Kmet looked like an elite TE1, posting games of 27.6 and 15.6 fantasy points, respectively. In Week 6, he cratered once again, posting 2.9 points, then somehow, it got even worse in Week 7, when he failed to register even a single target.

Kmet rebounding to catch all 10 of his targets for 79 yards last week was simultaneously unexpected, yet not surprising. Trying to predict the ups and downs seems like an exercise in futility, but here I go!

The Saints have been stellar against the tight end, allowing just 9.0 ppg, the fifth fewest in the league. Just 12.6% of their receiving yards allowed goes to the position. The matchup suggests Kmet will struggle. Avoid chasing last week’s points in Week 9 lineups.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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