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Fantasy Football: Exploring the messy backfields in New England and Philadelphia

Related: Patriots vs. Panthers injury analysis: New England’s running back depth takes some big hits

NFL: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are on the horizon and the trade deadlines are approaching. So take an extra long look at your roster this week and adjust accordingly. Whether it be a blockbuster trade, key waiver wire addition, acquiring a lesser known name with an easier playoff schedule, make the moves you need to make to get over the hump in the home stretch.

Before we jump into this week’s key takeaways and moves to consider, note the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans will be on bye in Week 10.

Add Pat Freiermuth... If you listened last week, the third overall ranked tight end over the past month — despite only playing three games — would already be on your roster. If not, act quick as he is available in over 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Freiermuth has fully taken advantage of Eric Ebron’s absence the past three weeks, posting three straight games with at least six targets and 12-plus fantasy points — scoring four touchdowns in that stretch. Freiermuth is still in a 2-to-1 snap rotation with Zach Gentry, but ran 26 routes to Gentry’s nine. He has earned the role of Mike Tomlin’s traditional every down tight end, even when Eric Ebron returns.

Sermon sadness... With Jeff Wilson Jr. back active for the 49ers Sunday, Sermon was a healthy scratch. Despite trading up for the former Buckeye in the third round of this year’s draft, the rookie has seen more than one carry in just two games this season. As San Francisco stayed true to their current script — giving Elijah Mitchell the majority of the early-down work while JaMycal Hasty handles third-down duties — Sermon needs multiple injuries ahead of him to get back on the fantasy radar.

Brandon is back... While Sermon’s stock has completely plummeted, Brandon Aiyuk’s stock seems to finally be trending in the right direction. After seeing a season high in targets (seven) last week, Aiyuk beat that mark again this week (eight) while also posting season highs in receptions (6), yards (89), and found the end zone for the first time since Week 3. The second year receiver also ran more routes than Deebo Samuel for the second straight week, as Kyle Shanahan is finally realizing he needs Aiyuk’s talent in the mix.

The Diggs dilemma... Largely drafted as the first or second wide receiver back in August, Diggs currently ranks as WR22 through the first nine weeks of the season. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders has certainly hurt his production, but the lack of volume in short yardage areas — where he posted 89 receptions last season — has been the most drastic change to hinder his production.

However, they may be hope. Last season, Diggs also got off to a slow start in his first year with Buffalo. The receiver posted just three games with more than six receptions in the first half of the season and then had seven or more receptions in the final eight games — finishing as the WR3 on the year. Still in a high powered offense (except when playing Jacksonville apparently), Diggs has the ability to replicate his second half performance last year, and a slew of green rated matchups the rest of the season should help his cause even more.

Philadelphia backfield... As if you thought the Eagles backfield could get any messier after the disastrous fantasy start Miles Sanders had, Philadelphia’s recent three headed committee has fantasy managers even more frustrated. After Boston Scott appeared to have a small lead in the backfield over Jordan Howard, it was Howard who led the Eagles in yards and attempts Sunday, despite playing two less snaps than Scott. Too make matters even more frustrating, Kenneth Gainwell found the end zone despite seeing just two carries. Moving forward, it appears Howard has the most value from a rushing standpoint, but buyer beware. His touchdown streak, or just his role in this ever evolving offense, could end at any moment.

Cowboys concerns?... Granted one game was without Dak Prescott, but the Cowboys have now scored just 36 points the past two weeks, and 16 of those came in complete and utter garbage time against the Broncos this past weekend. While there may be some cause for concern on the surface, it could ultimately just be Dallas playing two strong defenses and having Cooper Rush start one of those contests. Looking ahead, the Cowboys opposing schedule eases up significantly, starting this week with the Atlanta Falcons. I’d expect Dallas’ high powered offense to look more like it did before their Week 7 bye, making it a potential prime opportunity to buy low on the Cowboys’ skill players.

Patriots backfield... Starting with the rookie, Rhamondre Stevenson had his best NFL game against the Panthers. He had twice as many rushing yards as Damien Harris (despite five less carries) and added an impressive 41-yard catch and run. It’s clear he has become a clear part of this backfield rotation, making him worth a roster spot in deeper leagues and hurting Harris’ future production.

The unfortunate news is that Stevenson’s impressive day ended early, as the rookie was put into concussion protocol. As Damien Harris also found himself in concussion protocol with Stevenson, enter Brandon Bolden. Bolden has become the best PPR option out of New England's backfield and could be their only healthy running back entering next week’s contest against the Browns.

We want Moore...

If you were able to add Elijah Moore last week after for cheap, you are again ahead of the curve. Moore hauled in two touchdowns Thursday night as he saw over six targets for the third straight game. The rookie was second on the Jets to Jamison Crowder in both snaps and routes run, while his eight targets were tied for the team best. He has earned a role in this offense that should hold up even when Corey Davis returns.

The Titans... defense?... I believe this is the first D/ST unit we’ve discussed this year and I certainly wouldn't have believed you if you told me the Titans would be the first. Anyway, Tennessee’s D/ST has averaged 15(!!) fantasy points per game the past three weeks, despite matching up against Kansas City, Indianapolis, and the Los Angeles Rams. Next up? A home matchup against New Orleans Saints and whatever combination of Trevor Siemian/Taysom Hill. Fire ‘em up.