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Changes on the horizon


What would a week in the NFL be without some kind of injury that forces fantasy owners to rush to the waiver wire and try to be the first to grab their weekly prize? This week owners will be dropping Jacquizz Rodgers, Knile Davis, and Michael Floyd, while adding J.J. Nelson, Jordan Howard (I was wrong; get him back), Charcandrick West, Tim Hightower, and possibly Jay Cutler if you are desperate for a QB.

Looking at news around the league, Spencer Ware and Alex Smith are in the NFL's concussion protocol, putting their Week 9 availability in question already. West is the next guy up in Kansas City, with Jamaal Charles not able to walk from "here" to "there" without suffering a setback.

Savvy fantasy owners who need a QB will need to take a long look at Browns QB Josh McCown. Look, the Browns are what they are, but the fact is they WILL be throwing from behind a lot, putting McCown in line for garbage-time fantasy stats. And he gets back stud rookie WR Corey Coleman this week, making him even more appealing. Think about it if you need a bye week filler.


Derek Carr – Raiders: Carr was certainly in the driver's seat this weekend, racking up an impressive 513 passing yards and 4 touchdowns against the Bucs on Sunday. Granted, it's easier to throw for massive yardage when you toss the ball 59 times in a single game! But it is equally as impressive that he threw the ball 59 times and didn't throw a single interception.

Carr has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this season in fantasy terms, but there is no question he is a QB1 for years to come. He does draw the Broncos in Week 9, so I would probably just bench him until after their Week 10 bye.

Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Just like on the Wolf of Wall Street when Matthew McConaughey said, "We don't care HOW technology works. All we care about is getting rich!" We don't really care how or why Bortles finished with 337 passing yards, 22 rushing yards, 3 TDs, and a 2-point conversion; all we care about is that he finished with those numbers!

Bortles is flying in Adam Dedeaux to help him work on his mechanics, and the Jaguars made a change at offensive coordinator over the weekend. Bortles is struggling this season—let's not sugar coat anything—BUT when a fantasy QB has to throw from behind in the 4th quarter, games like this happen. I don't care what any of those other fantasy people say, Bortles has value.

Jordan Howard – Bears: Howard had himself a job-saving game in Week 8, running the ball 26 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. He also reeled in 4 of 4 targets for 49 yards. I was flat out wrong for not starting Howard this week, but there wasn't a football fan alive who thought the Vikings defense would show up with no intensity or effort on Monday Night Football.

The question now becomes: is Howard the unquestionable starter in Chicago, or will the Bears continue to do what they can to disrupt chemistry by using a committee of Howard, Ka'Deem Carey, and Jeremy Langford? The Bears have a bye in Week 9, giving them some time to hopefully figure out that the job is Howard's to lose as they finish out the season.

Theo Riddick – Lions: Riddick came back just in time for me in my ESPN pro league, because I was down to Rob Kelley as my only other RB option with Le'Veon Bell on a bye. Kelley put up one heck of a game himself (87 yards and a touchdown), but Riddick was far better with his multi-purpose abilities netting him 56 rushing yards, 77 receiving yards (8 receptions), and a touchdown against the Texans.

Riddick gets the Vikings in Week 9, and I'm not too excited about that matchup considering how the Vikings defense was embarrassed on national TV Monday night. I'd consider Riddick more of a flex play this week, and would advise caution in using him.

Devontae Booker – Broncos: Booker was the hot waiver wire addition this week after C.J. Anderson went down for the rest of the season. Booker was solid this week, running for 54 yards, catching for another 30 yards, and scoring a touchdown against the Chargers.

Booker did bang his shoulder up, and admitted he was sore on Monday. All signs point to him being cleared for Week 9, and he is locked into a RB1 role as long as he stays healthy. The Broncos have the Raiders and Saints before a Week 11 bye, putting Booker in a great position to build his confidence over the next two games.

J.J. Nelson – Cardinals: Nelson came out of nowhere in Week 8, hauling in 8 of 12 targets for 79 yards and 2 TDs against the Panthers. Nelson was so good, he forced the Cardinals to kick Michael Floyd out of the starting lineup and put him in. The Cardinals have needed someone to step up at WR opposite Larry Fitzgerald, and Nelson accepted the challenge.

Nelson is going to be the hot waiver wire pick this week, but owners need to be prepared for erratic stat lines from a No. 2 WR in a running offense. He's worth owning in most formats, but his upside is capped by a QB who looks like he is at the end of the road.

Allen Hurns – Jaguars: Fantasy owners have been waiting for Hurns to turn back the clock to 2015 and put up WR1 numbers this year, and he finally did it in Week 8 of the NFL season. Hurns finished as fantasy football's #6 WR this week thanks to his 7/98/1 line against the Titans.

Even though those big-box websites don't want to admit it, Hurns is right on the cusp of retaining WR3 value as we hit the midway point of the season. If Bortles can get his mechanics figured out, and the Jaguars stabilize the offense, Hurns will be someone that could produce WR3 numbers the rest of the way at a very low cost in trade talks.

Tyler Eifert – Bengals: Fantasy owners have been stashing Eifert for 8 weeks now, in the hopes that he would produce this season, like he did last season (52/615/13). Well, Eifert was worth the wait as he hauled in 9 of 12 targets for 102 yards and a touchdown in London. The game ended in a tie, but fantasy owners with the gumption to hold on to a guy for 8 weeks were the real winners this week.

Eifert is locked into a TE1 spot for the rest of the season, and is immediately my #1 TE for Week 9 with Rob Gronkowski on a bye. Don't forget, his return boosts the value of Andy Dalton if you are targeting a QB in trade talks.

San Diego Chargers defense: The Chargers defense seems to have a thing for the Broncos, as they racked up 2 sacks and 2 recovered fumbles, while allowing just 13 points, in Week 6. They followed that effort in Week 8 by punching up 2 more recovered fumbles, along with a sack, an INT, and a defensive touchdown to go with their 21 points allowed.

It was a hard game to watch offensively, with Philip Rivers and Trevor Siemian doing all they could to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Even in a losing effort, the Chargers were able to walk away with a victory, albeit a fantasy victory.


Russell Wilson – Seahawks: I'm SO done with Wilson and the Seahawks passing game this season. He had a prime matchup against the Saints this weekend, and he managed to keep his touchdown-free streak going for a 3rd game. Wilson finished with 253 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT.

Wilson's value comes in his dual-threat ability at QB, something that has been a non-factor this season. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said Wilson could shed his knee brace soon, but the knee brace won't fix his reluctance to run like he has in years past. I can't say to cut Wilson, but I am certainly not going to start him until he shows me something.

Cam Newton – Panthers: The Panthers didn't really need Newton this weekend, with Jonathan Stewart gobbling up all the TDs, and the defense shutting the Cardinals down. It's hard to knock a guy because his RB and defense did all the work for him, but this is fantasy and numbers is what we care about.

Newton finished with 212 empty passing yards, and 43 rushing yards in Week 8. His numbers will be better in Week 9 when the Panthers face the Rams, so don't get too worried about an off week.

Mark Ingram – Saints: Ingram was not only benched on Sunday after losing a fumble in the 1st quarter, but he lost his bell cow role as the Saints RB when Tim Hightower went off for 102 yards on the ground. Ingram was done for the day after just 3 carries, which netted 5 yards and 1 lost fumble.

Ingram owners better run to the waiver wire and snatch up Hightower or West, as it looks like Ingram's value is sinking faster than a boat with no hull. I wouldn't cut Ingram by any means, but his value took a major hit in Week 8.

Spencer Ware – Chiefs: Ware suffered a concussion this week, which limited his production to just 7 carries for 19 yards and 2 catches for 28 yards. The Chances of Jamaal Charles being ready for game action anytime soon are slim, so he is no real threat to Ware's workload. The only question right now is can he be cleared in time to play Week 9?

Ware owners will want to grab West as a handcuff just in case Ware isn't cleared. Check in with me via my **Facebook** and **Twitter** pages for updates throughout the week on Ware's progress.

T.Y. Hilton – Colts: Hilton had a rough week, managing to haul in just 1 of 6 targets for 20 empty yards. Hilton did leave the game with a hamstring injury in the 2nd quarter, but quickly returned after missing just one series.

With Donte Moncrief back and looking healthy, Hilton should be able to find more openings as the season moves forward. He'll try to bounce back this week against a Packers defense that gives up 26.2 PPG to fantasy WRs this season, 9th-most in the NFL.

DeAndre Hopkins – Texans: Let me make this clear, Hopkins isn't the problem in fantasy football. His problem is directly tied to the QB he has throwing to the defender covering him. You want to know what's really sad? This week, the better Hopkins play was actually Dustin Hopkins, kicker for the Redskins! That's right. K Hopkins put up 11.00 fantasy points (20-29 yard FG, 40-49 yard FG, and 3 PATs), while WR Hopkins put up 6.40 fantasy points (PPR format) with his 4 catches and 44 yards.

Hopkins is ranked #30 for fantasy WRs as we head into Week 9, not a number his owners can be pleased with considering he was averaged out as the 8th overall pick this year. You can't cut him, and you can't trade him, so just stick him in your lineup and pray your other WRs can pick up his slack.

Greg Olsen – Panthers: Olsen was a victim of game-flow, just like Newton, and finished with 1 catch for 11 yards, and no endzone celebrations. We all know TE is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, but Olsen is supposed to be one of those guys who gets you at least 4-5 catches with 50-plus yards each week. He didn't do that this week, and fantasy owners can only shake their heads and move on.

Olsen takes on the Rams in Week 9, and their defense has limited fantasy TEs to just 5.9 PPG, 11th-best in the NFL. I think Cam Newton has something to prove after comments he made following the Cardinals game, leading me to believe Olsen could be in line for some redzone looks. Chances are you don't have any better options if you own Olsen, so stick him in there and hope for the best.

Tennessee Titans defense: The Titans defense was trending all week long on the waiver wire addition list, and you know those owners have to be just hating life after watching Bortles rack up numbers in the 4th quarter. When the final whistle blew, the Titans defense allowed 22 points, while getting just 2 sacks and 1 recovered fumble.

Those big-box websites that advocate playing whatever defense the Jaguars are playing are foolish, and should be put on your blocked list. Even the Browns are no longer a gimme with McCown and Coleman back. You want a sleeper defense for Week 9, go check out the Falcons.

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