Week 9’s biggest fantasy football questions: NFL reporters give advice

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …

COVID-19 has reared its ugly head again in NFL circles, and while the Green Bay Packers managed to hand the Arizona Cardinals their first loss on Oct. 28 without leading receiver Davante Adams after he was sidelined with the coronavirus, how will they do it again without quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

These are the times that try fantasy managers’ souls. And those of Packers fans, too. Certainly it’s a huge opportunity for Jordan Love, but in fantasy football it’s more probable managers will turn to other, better-known quantities at the position, whether already on their rosters or otherwise.

Love is playing against the Kansas City Chiefs, though, who rank 29th in total defense and have looked shaky at pretty much everything over the past month. If ever you were going to take a flier on Love (how romantic!), this is the time: Signal-callers playing against the Chiefs have ended the week as top-five options in fantasy four times this season.

ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe, who generates the fantasy questions, wonders what Love will mean for the Packers’ ground game. He also has questions about the running games in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Houston and Kansas City. And our reporters have answers.

On byes this week and thus not included below are Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Seattle. Away we go.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Was the big Cole Beasley game the result of Dawson Knox missing this game?

Somewhat. A portion of the targets that Knox might have gotten in the middle of the field went to Beasley in his first 100-yard game of the season, but he’s not going to be a reliable substitute going forward. Beasley also missed multiple days of practice this week with a rib injury, and might be a less reliable option against the Jaguars. The Bills are going to get different weapons more involved on a week-to-week basis, and until Knox returns, there is not one person who will benefit in his place. — Alaina Getzenberg

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Miami Dolphins

DeVante Parker or Jaylen Waddle the rest of the season (PPR scoring)?

It’s close, but Parker hasn’t seen fewer than seven targets in any single game this season and has cleared 70 receiving yards in three of five games. Waddle’s usage is convenient for PPR scoring, but Parker is without a doubt WR1 in this offense. The problem is that Parker is now on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, which could see more targets for Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

New England Patriots

Jakobi Meyers has been held under 60 receiving yards in four straight games: Without much scoring equity, does he need to remain rostered?

If there is a week to take Meyers off the roster, this might be it. Here’s the thinking: He’s still Mac Jones’ go-to guy in got-to-have-it situations, but that might mean the Panthers put Stephon Gilmore on him on third down. The Patriots know first-hand how well Gilmore can lock down receivers. — Mike Reiss

New York Jets

For dynasty managers: What is the long-term outlook/upside of Elijah Moore? Does he remind you of any former or current player?

After a slow start, Moore is demonstrating big-time potential the past two games (13 catches, 151 yards, two TDs). He’s a silky-smooth route runner, reminiscent of former Jets Santana Moss. At 5-foot-10, Moore won’t win with size, but he has every other trait for a WR1. He has a next-level ability to separate from defenders because of precision at the top of his routes. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Can this offense sustain three viable pass-catchers (Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews)?

Absolutely. The Ravens have become a passing team because they’re not getting consistent production from their running backs. Over the past five games, Lamar Jackson has thrown the ball an average of 33.8 times while the running backs have averaged 17.2 carries. Baltimore is going to continue to push the ball downfield to Brown, Bateman and Andrews because only two of its remaining opponents rank in the top 10 in pass defense (Packers and Browns). — Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Boyd showed signs of life on Sunday: Capitalize on the increase in value or trade him, thinking that the role won’t be consistent enough?

I still have my concerns about Boyd’s consistency. However, QB Joe Burrow issued a great sign when he said Boyd has made the most strides in being able to go off-script when Burrow scrambles. “His route’s not open,” Burrow said, “then he sees me break the pocket and his scramble reaction happens a lot faster.” Still, Boyd is likely a flex option at best. — Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

The touchdown was nice, but will D’Ernest Johnson get enough work to hold weekly value?

What you saw last weekend is probably going to be what you get with Johnson. He will get a few carries to spell Nick Chubb. But probably not enough to warrant a starting spot, unless he can keep the two-game scoring streak alive. — Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seven targets in consecutive weeks for Pat Freiermuth: A role we can bank on?

Yes, as much as you can bank on anything in this offense. His production might vary by week, but Freiermuth is going to continue to be more involved with JuJu Smith-Schuster out. In the past two weeks, Freiermuth has played 78% and 60% of snaps. Roethlisberger is clearly developing a chemistry with the rookie, and he’s showing signs of being a much-needed reliable offensive weapon — especially in the red zone. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

If you had to roster a Texans running back moving forward, who would it be?

David Johnson. Rex Burkhead led the way in Week 8 against the Rams, but coach David Culley said it was just because the Texans had gone to a “hurry-up mode.” It seems more likely that Johnson ends the season leading the Texans in carries and rushing yards, so don’t give up on him yet. — Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman Jr. had one TD reception through 17 career games, but has been on a tear over the past month. Is this his peak value, or can he sustain his success in the red zone?

Pittman has all the things necessary — speed, size and catching ability — to be able to sustain the success he has had this season. He has 20 more receptions, 339 more yards and four more receptions of at least 20 yards than his next-closest teammate. The passing game will continue to go through Pittman no matter where the Colts have the ball. — Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Dan Arnold is looking like a fantasy asset: Should we be banking on 6 to 8 targets a week?

Arnold has 25 targets in his four games with the Jaguars so expecting 6 to 8 per week is pretty spot on. Arnold is already third on the team in YAC (104) despite playing in three fewer games than the two guys ahead of him (Laviska Shenault Jr. has 174 and James Robinson has 137). Definitely worth a pickup, especially since the Jaguars should be trailing big in games. — Michael DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

We’ve seen efficient Ryan Tannehill in consecutive games: Can he keep it up and provide more value in the second half of the season than he did the first?

Tannehill should continue his efficiency as a passer as long as the Titans don’t evolve into a wide-open passing attack. Maintaining the run-heavy offense and mixing in some play-action is the best formula for Tannehill. Since 2019, Tannehill’s 11 completions of 50 yards or more off play-action lead all QBs. However, not having Derrick Henry on the field could take a toll. Tannehill’s QBR since 2019 without Henry dropped from 79 to 55 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio goes from 4.0 to 2.5. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Even targets across the board in Jerry Jeudy’s return: Do you expect this to be the case moving forward, or will a top option emerge?

Jeudy’s target share will go up slightly if the Broncos put Teddy Bridgewater under center more when they can protect him enough to get Jeudy free down the field. But tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is developing some chemistry with Bridgewater and will bear keeping an eye on. Overall the Broncos want to push the ball down the field to Jeudy so they need to protect better to do that. They are 4-0 when Bridgewater splits under center and in the shotgun close to 50-50, 0-4 when they lean heavily on the shotgun. — Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Are we looking at a full-blown committee the rest of the way in this backfield?

It’s starting to look that way. Derrick Gore was impressive enough against the Giants to have earned a spot in the rotation. Darrel Williams will get his work, as will Clyde Edwards-Helaire when he returns. I would expect the committee to continue at least until Edwards-Helaire returns and has a chance to reestablish himself as the RB1. — Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

Darren Waller has underwhelmed a bit since the big Week 1. Are you confident that he can rediscover his elite form coming out of the bye?

Yes. And for a simple reason: The Raiders are going to need him to be even more productive going forward. As QB Derek Carr said, it’s tough to answer these types of questions now, given Henry Ruggs III’s car crash that killed a young woman and saw him cut by the team. The Raiders and media alike want to respect the loss of life and will continue to do so. Yet, as Carr referenced, there is a job to do, a game to play, and for the Raiders’ offense to stay on schedule it needs Waller. In more ways than one. — Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers

Two tough games in a row for Mike Williams: Who is the WR1 for the Chargers the rest of the way?

That’s a tough call that more than likely will be determined by Chargers’ opponents and how they choose to cover Williams and Keenan Allen. Williams has three games this season with five or fewer targets, and his totals in those games are horrific (five receptions, 51 yards, 0 TDs). In the other four games he has had at least nine targets in each, scored in each, and averaged over 100 receiving yards. The Chargers want him involved, but they’ll continue to target Allen plenty, too. — Shelley Smith

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

The targets continue to be there for Dalton Schultz. Despite a slow week, do you view his role as stable enough for fantasy managers to rely on weekly?

I feel like I say this every time regarding the Cowboys’ offense: Things will change week to week. They won’t feed a player for the sake of feeding a player. The same is true for Schultz. The Vikings squeezed the middle of the field, which meant some of those seven targets were difficult (and he had a drop) but also meant big days for Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The return of Dak Prescott should help, although the Cowboys might cut back on some of their bootleg and waggle looks because of the quarterback’s calf strain. But Schultz will continue to be a factor in this offense. — Todd Archer

New York Giants

Do you expect Saquon Barkley to be inserted into the feature role right away or see a gradual increase in work as he proves his health?

This isn’t the week for Saquon Barkley. He was already a long shot to play even before the COVID-19 situation. But after the bye week, that is a different story. Barkley should be back in a feature role and getting plenty of touches. There will be no bringing him along slowly. — Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Is Boston Scott going to be the featured back in this offense with Miles Sanders on the shelf?

I’m expecting more running back by committee, with Scott, Jordan Howard and Kenny Gainwell splitting reps. The snap distribution could fluctuate depending on the opponent/situation, with Gainwell being featured more prominently when the Eagles are leaning on the pass game, making it difficult to forecast production in a given week. But Scott will have a role and has largely made the most of his opportunities to this point in his career. — Tim McManus

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields was on the move early and often on Sunday: Part of the game plan or just an aberration?

Part of the game plan. The Bears want at least five designed runs for Fields each week. The rookie is unbelievable on the move. Fields’ 22-yard touchdown run against San Francisco was the Bears’ most exciting offensive play in years. Look for Fields to keep running, and therefore to improve his fantasy value. — Jeff Dickerson

Green Bay Packers

With Aaron Rodgers out, do you think the run game gains volume and puts AJ Dillon in position to surpass his career-high 16 touches from last week?

No question. We saw a hint of that last week at Arizona when the Packers were without their top three receivers. Even if they get some or all of them back this week, they’re going to do everything they can to protect Jordan Love from having to carry the weight of the offense. Matt LaFleur called designed runs on 45% of the snaps last week, the second-highest rate of the season. It could be higher this week unless the Packers fall behind big early. — Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

At least five targets in four of his past five games. Is Tyler Conklin a viable fantasy option alongside a pair of high-end receivers in an offense that wants to establish Dalvin Cook?

As a TE2 or backup option, yes. Conklin’s targets aren’t overwhelming, but his usage has been consistent the past month and should stay that way in a game with the third-highest over-under (49.5) in Week 9. Conklin has carved out a role for himself in the Vikings’ pass game, having run routes on 73.6% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks over the past four games. Minnesota wants to get back to running the ball effectively with Dalvin Cook, and even if the Vikings can do that, Conklin should still have a steady presence as a pass-catching threat over the middle of the field. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Is there a single player on this roster we can start with the utmost confidence weekly outside of Calvin Ridley (when active)?

Yes, because you shouldn’t freak out about the production — or lack thereof — last Sunday. At this point you can start Cordarrelle Patterson consistently in a PPR leagues. Patterson has been one of the most effective Falcons throughout the season. Considering the lack of depth at tight end in the NFL, you should be starting Kyle Pitts in all but the shallowest leagues as well. Those two have been worthwhile. And depending how deep your league is, Matt Ryan is a viable option at quarterback more weeks than not. Otherwise — stay away. — Michael Rothstein

Carolina Panthers

Any snap/touch limitations to worry about as Christian McCaffrey nears his return?

Yes. Research shows that a high volume of touches coming off an injury increases the chances for re-injury or another injury. The Panthers, whether McCaffrey returns this week or next, probably will have him on a snap count and spread the wealth as they did last week when three backs and Sam Darnold contributed to a season-high 47 carries for 203 yards. — David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Do you think Mark Ingram’s involvement will increase with time, or is he simply backfield depth that won’t much impact Alvin Kamara’s bottom line?

Somewhere in between. Kamara is still the most vital part of New Orleans’ offense — especially in the wake of this week’s news that Michael Thomas won’t be coming back this year. The Saints will keep Kamara involved as much as possible, and he’ll keep getting high-value touches in the run game, passing game and red zone. But they also want to keep him fresh, so maybe something like 18 to 22 touches for Kamara and 8 to 12 for Ingram is a reasonable expectation. — Mike Triplett

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Which RB do you think will be more productive the rest of the way in PPR leagues: Chase Edmonds or James Conner?

This isn’t really a debate: It’s Edmonds. He has six times the amount of receptions as Conner and will continue to be a crucial part of the Cardinals’ passing game, especially while quarterback Kyler Murray deals with an ankle injury. Conner may take away some of Edmonds’ carries but won’t make a dent in his catches. — Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Robert Woods was used in the run game for the first time in a while. Is that role here to stay?

Since Sean McVay’s arrival, the Rams have used their receivers in both the run and pass game. Woods’ versatility allows him to be a short, intermediate and deep-threat receiver, and as we saw against the Texans, he can also make plays out of the backfield. What makes the Rams hard to defend? It’s unpredictable who, when and how any of their playmakers will get the ball, so expect to see Woods used in both the run and pass going forward — but predicting how often that will happen is anyone’s guess. — Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Brandon Aiyuk peaked in the second half of last season. Could his seven targets on Sunday be a sign of another late-season rise in value?

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has certainly taken a more optimistic tone when it comes to Aiyuk of late, particularly after the win in Chicago which he said was Aiyuk’s best game of the season. Does that mean his role will expand to where it was near the end of last season? The 49ers would like that to be the case, especially with Deebo Samuel doing the work of multiple players so far this year. However, Samuel has been outstanding and tight end George Kittle is also on the way back, which means it’s probably best to see it before you believe it when it comes to Aiyuk offering substantial production from a fantasy perspective. — Nick Wagoner

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