It's strange how things work out. Green Bay losing Eddie Lacy for the season may end up being a blessing in disguise, as the real Aaron Rodgers has come back in his absence. Rodgers has 7 touchdowns, no picks and 94 passing attempts over the last two weeks. While this level of imbalance is unlikely to continue with James Starks returning soon, the Packers found a new weapon in Ty Montgomery and are more likely to rely on volume passing moving forward. With IND, TEN and WSH over the next three games, Rodgers should reclaim his top-3 fantasy QB status after a sluggish start.
Associated PressDavid Goldman
Does Big Ben's return solve everything?
It's kind of shocking that Ben Roethlisberger is in line to play just two weeks removed from a torn meniscus, but we've seen the resilient QB play through injuries in the past. The whole offense gets a huge bump, provided Ben can stay upright and isn't just rushing back to save the day. Sammie Coates is suddenly back on the WR2/WR3 radar, and Antonio Brown can be penciled in as the top fantasy receiver once again. It should be safely assumed that Ben will revive this offense and make it a fantasy juggernaut again after his brief absence.
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Will Russell Wilson ever get it going?
Russell Wilson has earned the reputation of being a streaky fantasy quarterback, but he's been killing his owners over the last few weeks, despite some juicy matchups. Wilson has zero touchdowns over his last three starts, and has topped 300 yards just once this year. Worse yet, his injuries have totally curbed his rushing, as he has just 44 yards on the ground this year. He'd be waiver wire fodder if he didn't have such a strong fantasy history, but for now, it's best to plant him on the bench and keep him there until he starts to break out of this funk. He can't be trusted with his health and poor play right now.
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Can Eli Manning snap out of it?
He has the weapons on the outside, but Eli Manning hasn't been able to make it work. In five of Manning's seven games, he has one touchdown or less. A matchup against Philadelphia's defense is unlikely to make matters better, as the Eagles are the third best defense in the league in yardage allowed. You may have to play him because of the Bye weeks, but you'd be better served waiting one more week for a matchup against a Bengals pass defense that has been much easier to beat. Manning's fantasy playoff schedule is friendly, but you might not make it there if he's your best QB option.
USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn
Can Derek Carr pass this test?
Denver's defense is the least optimal fantasy matchup, but Derek Carr's owners are going to have a tough time sitting him after last week's 513 yard effort. The Raiders have a tendency of getting down early and playing from behind, which could certainly happen in this matchup. If the Raiders get up early though, this offense will likely play very conservative football. It's tough to bench a player who is getting MVP love, but Denver's defense has made mice out of men many times before and Carr's stats will likely be very dependent on game flow. I'd avoid this one if possible.
Can Jay Ajayi be stopped?
Jay Ajayi has 418 yards and 3 touchdowns over the last two weeks, and his only competition for carries, Arian Foster, has retired. He's locked into a huge workload, and as we've seen for guys like Melvin Gordon, that can lead to major fantasy success. Ajayi runs hard and looks primed for a big finish to the year, but this is a danger spot for him. The Jets allow just 3.3 YPC on the season, tied for the league lead, and are so much more vulnerable through the air. It would be nice to see Ajayi do more work in the passing game (8 receptions this year), but you still need to fire him up as a clear RB1 in this matchup. Just temper your expectations.
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Is Theo Riddick a true RB1?
The question may sound silly on the surface, but Riddick has been an absolute PPR monster this year. Thanks to his receiving skills, Riddick has only had one week with less than double-digit fantasy points, which most top running backs can't say. While Riddick's inability to score on the ground and lackluster 3.7 YPC cap his top-5 potential, his steady diet of receptions make him an incredible fantasy asset and somewhat matchup proof. He'll have a chance to prove that against a motivated Vikings defense this week.
Can Mark Ingram emerge from the doghouse?
Saints coach Sean Payton had no chill last week, benching Mark Ingram after a first quarter fumble, despite it not being a problem for him throughout this season. Payton clearly doesn't trust Ingram, and giving Tim Hightower 26 carries was sort of a slap in the face for Ingram owners everywhere. While this could easily turn into an even more perplexing committee situation, it seems more likely that Hightower has the job for now and Ingram will be sprinkled in. The good news? It doesn't take many carries to put up huge fantasy numbers against the 49ers, who sport one of the worst run defenses in the history of the league through the first eight weeks.
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Is Dez Bryant reliable?
Dez Bryant is in a great spot in Week 9. Dez gets a Cleveland secondary that has been absolutely torched all season long, allowing opposing quarterbacks a 103.4 QB rating, which is 31st in the league. The issue in Dallas is that this is a clear run-first offense lead by Ezekiel Elliott, and in games where the Cowboys get up early, Dez might not see the kind of targets a player like Mike Evans or Julio Jones might. While Bryant can no longer be placed in that tier, he should still be a volatile WR1 capable of making your day with a big play or touchdown.
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Julio Jones or MIke Evans?
Week 9 features a matchup between two of the highest scoring players in all of fantasy: Julio Jones and Mike Evans. Both defenses have been suceptible to the pass, and with Tevin Coleman and Jacob Tamme both out for Thursday night, Jones should receive plenty of looks his way from Matt Ryan. This is a matchup where both receivers could put up monster games, even if we're not used to seeing that on Thursday night. This should be a high-scoring battle.