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TRAPS & TRENDS: Week 9

Do the Carolina Panthers have a new fantasy-relevant second wideout? Do the Washington Football Team and Miami Dolphins have fantasy-relevant quarterbacks? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers those questions and gives us the latest injury report in his Week 9 edition of “Traps and Trends.”

WEEK 9 AT A GLANCE

Unlike last week, windy and/or rainy weather conditions didn’t factor into any of the games, which is a big reason why several of them were high scoring. Eleven of the 26 teams in action Thursday night and Sunday racked up at least 30 points with the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks combining for 78 points. We saw two massive upsets with the New Orleans Saints stomping the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-3 at Raymond James Stadium, and the on-the-rise Miami Dolphins outdueling the Arizona Cardinals 34-31 at State Farm Stadium. There were also two near upsets as the Kansas City Chiefs held off the Carolina Panthers 33-31 and the Pittsburgh Steelers survived a Ben Roethlisberger knee injury and a scare from the Dallas Cowboys to prevail 24-19 and get off to the best start (8-0) in the 88-year history of the Steelers franchise.

WITH THE SECOND HALF OF THE NFL SEASON ON THE HORIZON…

As we wrap up Week 9 action Monday night, COVID-19 cases continue to jump in the United States of America. We’ve had four consecutive days of 100,000-plus positive tests. I know a lot of you read my column and many other fantasy football columns to take a break from depressing real world news. I respect that. However, I need to point out that 22 NFL teams don’t have bye weeks left to accommodate COVID-19 postponements. If the NFL has more team COVID-19 outbreak situations in the coming weeks, I suspect we could see the cancellation of a game or two…maybe more if postponement isn’t an option for whatever reason. I hope I’m wrong on this. Keep thinking positive thoughts.

THE WEEK 9 INJURY REPORT

We didn’t have as many high-profile injuries as usual, and fantasy managers won’t be happy to see Christian McCaffrey’s name listed here. As usual, keep in mind that some teams withhold injury information until Monday, so a few more names could be added to this list.

Week 9 Injuries:

QB Kyle Allen (dislocated/broken ankle)

QB Matthew Stafford (concussion)

QB Ben Roethlisberger (ankle; returned to game)

RB Christian McCaffrey (ribs)

RB David Montgomery (concussion)

RB David Johnson (concussion)

RB Justin Jackson (knee)

WR Laviska Shenault (hamstring)

WR Preston Williams (foot)

WR Mike Evans (groin; returned to game)

TE Jack Doyle (concussion)

TE Noah Fant (ankle)

TE Albert Okwuegbunam (knee)

We’re just nine weeks into the 2020 NFL fantasy football season, but…

1. Are the Carolina Panthers featuring a new No. 2 wideout?

The Dudes: Curtis Samuel & D.J. Moore

In case you had forgotten, D.J. Moore operated as the Panthers’ lead wideout during the 2019 season, amassing 87 catches, 1,175 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions. However, an offseason switch to a new playbook, a new offensive coordinator (Joe Brady) and a new head coach (Matt Rhule), who had worked with free-agent acquisition Robby Anderson at Temple led to Anderson taking over as the No. 1 guy with Moore sliding into the No. 2 spot to start the season.

Shaking off a slow start, Moore quickly found a comfort zone in the new scheme. From Week 1 through Week 7, he was the fantasy WR9/standard and the fantasy WR14/PPR. Averaging a solid 8.3 targets per contest during that stretch, Moore either scored or racked up 90-plus receiving yards in four of seven outings. He tallied one 100-yard outing and three touchdowns.

The Panthers coaching staff had spent the first half of the season failing to make good on promises to get speedy and versatile Curtis Samuel more involved in the offense. In five games played from Week 1 through Week 7, he was barely on the fantasy radar, averaging 4.6 targets, 3.8 receptions, 36.6 receiving yards, 3.0 carries and 12.6 rushing yards per contest with no touchdowns scored – or a combined 8.2 touches and 59.8 combo yards per contest.

During the last two weeks, however, D.J. Moore’s role has been shrinking while Samuel’s role has been expanding. Moore caught a combined four passes for 73 yards on eight targets while Samuel amassed 13 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 14 targets and, sometimes lining up in the backfield, he compiled six carries for 36 yards and one touchdown. Has Samuel supplanted Moore as Carolina’s No. 2 wideout?

The Diagnosis: TREND

I suspect that’s what we’re seeing. Moore was a top-15 fantasy wideout during the first seven weeks of the season, as noted, but Brady apparently has taken a liking to Samuel’s versatility as a receiver and as a runner. During 2019, Moore operated as an underneath safety valve, but he’s now competing for targets as a downfield boom-or-bust target. At the beginning of the season, Rhule had said he wants Moore to emerge as “that physical, dominant, go-to receiver.” I don’t think Moore fits the bill. However, he’s not going to disappear completely for the rest of 2020 (his 2-18-0 receiving line on two targets against the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday was troubling), but you should downgrade him to a boom-or-bust fantasy WR3/WR4 status.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.