We get an NFC West battle Thursday night, and there are plenty of injuries to track.
In San Francisco's backfield, Tevin Coleman comes off his first career four-touchdown game to face a beatable Cardinals defense with all three of his backfield mates banged up. Coleman had his big game on just 13 touches, so he should be able to handle a decent workload even on the short week. He's an easy start for Week 9.
But in all likelihood, he'll still share the backfield with someone. We just don't yet know who that someone might be. Jeff Wilson suffered a stinger in Week 8, but appears to be over that and is probably the most likely secondary back to play. Wilson was very productive in short yardage earlier this year, but that's a role Coleman has largely handled over the past few weeks. So if the other backs are out, it will be difficult to pin down Wilson's role and whether he might cut into Coleman's touchdown upside.
Matt Breida (ankle) and Raheem Mostert (knee) were both held out of Tuesday's practice. Breida showed last season an ability to play through lingering issues and still be productive, but both of these backs will need to rebound quickly to suit up.
The way this plays out will be significant because 49ers running backs as a group have accumulated more Fantasy points per game in PPR and standard than any other backfield. As 10-point favorites on a short week, there should be plenty of production to go around. If the backfield is thinned out and your Fantasy backfield is thinned out by injury or byes, secondary pieces will be worth considering as flex options.
Kenyan Drake to get "manageable workload"
On the other side of the Thursday night game, we'll see Kenyan Drake make his debut for the Cardinals after being acquired in a trade for a conditional late-round pick Monday. Both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds are expected to miss the game, but Drake will be working on just a couple of days' time trying to learn a new offense.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged that, saying Drake will be given a manageable workload. In all likelihood, we'll see some Zach Zenner as well. Zenner played 19 snaps in his debut with the Cardinals last week after Edmonds suffered his hamstring injury.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Drake's role and the difficult matchup with San Francisco, he's a tough option for this week. Drake's a competent receiver and there's some pass-catching upside if he gets to run some routes, given Arizona will likely trail and Zenner isn't much of a pass-catcher himself. But the passing game is always the more difficult part of a playbook to learn, and while Zenner is still relatively new with the team himself, it would be quite the feat if Drake were deployed in any kind of creative way that would allow him to be productive against this defense.
Here's more from around the league:
- Star offensive tackle Trent Williams reported to Washington after the trade deadline passed Tuesday, but he's let it be known he isn't planning to play this year. Williams reported to ensure his contract wouldn't toll. Washington will reportedly look to deal him in the offseason.
- Brandin Cooks is visiting a concussion specialist as the team maps out a plan for the wide receiver following his second concussion this season. Cooks now has five documented concussions at the NFL level, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him miss significant time. By way of comparison, Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard has missed multiple weeks following what was his second concussion of the season back in Week 5.
- The Jaguars placed Marqise Lee on IR after the receiver suffered a shoulder injury in Week 8. Dede Westbrook left that game as well, but . D.J. Chark also popped up as questionable on the injury report with a quad injury. While Chark and Westbrook don't appear to be seriously injured, Chris Conley's prospects are elevated this week, especially if either is limited.
- Miles Sanders left Week 8 with a shoulder injury but x-rays came back negative. Coach Doug Pederson sounded optimistic about his status and called him day-to-day in advance of Week 9. Pederson was also optimistic DeSean Jackson could be back this week. Jackson has been out since Week 1, but with a Week 10 bye looming, both players could be held out to ensure full health for the stretch run.
- A.J. Green did some team drills Wednesday, though the Bengals are on a bye in Week 9. He will reportedly try to ramp up his activity next week and hopes to play in Week 10 against Baltimore.
- Bill Belichick said N'Keal Harry is showing "a little more improvement and confidence and taking things a little bit further" each day, but also noted "he's missed a lot of time" and "still has a long way to go" though he's "definitely trending in the right direction." Belichick is the master of saying things while not really saying anything, and while it seems unlikely a rookie will step into a huge role, the Patriots have a need for an outside playmaker even after the trade for Mohamed Sanu. The impending release of Josh Gordon came as a surprise, and I'm reading into that move as a bit of a positive note that Harry could be utilized if ready. The Patriots obviously thought highly of him in taking him in the first round and while their track record with young wide receivers isn't great, they did utilize a 21-year-old Rob Gronkowski heavily in his rookie season once upon a time, as the future star scored 10 touchdowns in his first year. Harry's an upside stash with a downside of literally zero catches.
- The Vikings have designated Josh Doctson to return from IR. Adam Thielen appears to be on track to play in Week 9, which would shift Bisi Johnson back to his No. 3 role with Laquon Treadwell as the No. 4. Doctson has a shot to work his way into the No. 3 mix, but is unlikely to be Fantasy relevant.
- There were several kicker moves this week. The Patriots released Mike Nugent and signed Nick Folk. Atlanta released Matt Bryant and signed Younghoe Koo. The Chargers released Chase McLaughlin, signifying Mike Badgley is ready to go after missing the entire season up to this point with a groin injury.
So who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 9 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.