Week 8 was a mediocre one on the sleeper sheet — Trey McBride came through and Kendrick Bourne had a touchdown before his injury, that was mostly it. And perhaps you added Demario Douglas for depth, which could be helpful moving forward (more on him later). But most fantasy managers didn't need to dig deep in a week where all 32 NFL teams were in play.
We don't have that luxury now. The harsh reality of the bye week is back, with a partial slate in play in five of the next six weeks. With an eye toward planning, here are the 20 teams who haven't taken their bye yet:
Week 9: Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, 49ers
Week 10: Chiefs, Rams, Dolphins, Eagles
Week 11: Falcons, Colts, Patriots, Saints
Week 12: Everyone plays
Week 13: Ravens, Bills, Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Giants
Week 14: Cardinals, Commanders
Depth is going to be important. Shrewd and discriminating fantasy managers will be rewarded. Let's see what Week 9 has for us.
QB Gardner Minshew II at Carolina (22% rostered)
The Colts have become the fantasy carnival of the season, a team that can score and a team that can't stop much. Six of their games have sailed over the total, and the Colts rank fifth in plays per game and dead last in plays allowed per game. Volume is your friend here.
Of course, for a game to be a shootout, you need the other team to fight back. But Bryce Young has improved in recent starts (and is coming off his first NFL win), so I'm less concerned about that side than I would have been a month ago. Heck, if Minshew isn't available to you and you're stuck at quarterback, you might look for Young.
The Colts surely will want to attack Carolina on the ground like most teams do — the Panthers rank dead last in run defense DVOA, but a respectable 14th in pass defense DVOA. But with the Colts carrying an implied team total of 23 points, I see no reason why Minshew, Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs can't get in on the fun. The only reason why Minshew hasn't been a great fantasy play the last three weeks is his recurring turnover problem (nine giveaways), but that's less likely to be a problem against this mediocre Carolina defense. Let's play some pinball.
RB Devin Singletary vs. Tampa Bay (24% rostered)
I didn't want to leave the running back position empty this week, but there aren't a lot of fun options. Singletary is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but that's significantly better than Dameon Pierce's 3.0 mark. The Texans are treating this backfield as an even timeshare, and it's possible a hot hand on game day could take control of the backfield. I would suspect Singletary has a floor of 7-10 touches, with 14-18 possible if things break right. The Buccaneers defense has been average against the run, nothing special.
WR Rashid Shaheed vs. Chicago (48% rostered)
Shaheed has been actively acquired all week, but he's still under the 50% cutoff, so we'll include him. You know the risks with Shaheed up front — he's a part-time player and a deep-route runner, someone who offers more boom-or-bust than the typical receiver. But the booms have been a blast — Shaheed was the WR4 last week, and he's also landed as the WR6 and WR11 in games this season. Heck, we wish Chris Olave had the same peaks to point to.
Shaheed leads the NFL in yards per catch and the Bears pass defense is 31st in DVOA. I have to assume the Saints are going to take some deep shots to their emerging field stretcher.
WR Demario Douglas vs. Washington (19% rostered)
It's always an uncomfortable moment when we slide a New England pass catcher into this page. Mac Jones is having a mediocre year, and OC Bill O'Brien hasn't had many answers. But the Patriots are drawing Washington at the right time — the Commanders traded away two pieces of their pass rush this week, and Washington's pass defense ranks a lousy 30th in DVOA.
So Jones should have time to throw, and there should be open receivers. And let's start with Douglas, who's coming off 13 targets the last two weeks (with a respectable nine catches) and should see a bump in workload now that Bourne is out for the year. New England also likes to use Douglas proactively as a runner, giving him a carry the last two weeks (good for 24 additional yards).
WR Jonathan Mingo vs. Indianapolis (7% rostered)
It's common for rookie receivers to have a spike in the second half of their debut seasons, and that makes Mingo a player to track. The Panthers treat him as a full-timer — he missed just one snap last week and was at 93% snaps the previous week. A 4-62-0 line against Houston didn't rock the world, but Mingo's clearly the No. 2 target after Adam Thielen, and we already mentioned the pinball potential between the Panthers and Colts. With Young starting to pick up his play, maybe he'll take Mingo along for the ride.
TE Cade Otton vs. Houston (4% rostered)
It's not a great week for tight end streamers, and I hope you don't have to look under the 50% line. Perhaps you've been proactive with recent pickups like Dalton Kincaid, Taysom Hill or Trey McBride, or maybe you solved this position on draft day. Here's hoping.
But if you're in a pickle, you can squint at Otton and see the upside. The Buccaneers have one of the narrowest passing trees in the league, and lately, that's included Otton — he has a 9-70-0 line the last two weeks, on 12 targets. He also had a two-point conversion catch in the loss at Buffalo. When Baker Mayfield is at the goal line, he isn't afraid to look for Otton.
The Texans defense might be on the rise, but it's been good to tight ends (allowing the ninth-most fantasy points). Otton's roster tag deserves to be higher.