Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Falcons are a stacking option against anyone, but a road game at the Bucs should be especially bountiful for Matt Ryan and Co. The Bucs have been sixth worst against fantasy quarterbacks, fifth worst against wide receivers and seventh worst against running backs.
Ryan threw 334 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener and should be good for at least that with Tevin Coleman (hamstring) out. Ryan has 1,000 yards and five TDs in his past three games against the Bucs.
The game plan will feature the pass, which makes Julio Jones a premium option and Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabiel sleeper value plays. Both of the latter two are coming of a game with a TD catch.
Devonta Freeman is a high-volume play at RB with Coleman out, too – as he carries the load on the ground, in the red zone and in the short passing game to boot. Also, the absence of Jacob Tamme (shoulder) opens up a second start for the min-priced TE Austin Hooper. There isn't much we don't like about the Falcons at the Bucs, so throw in the kicker in FanDuel action as well.
On the Bucs side, it's all Mike Evans. Winston is a sleeper at his price – especially when you consider he went 281-4 in the season opener in Atlanta – and will target Evans often, but he is down some weapons. Doug Martin (hamstring) and Jazquizz Rodgers (foot) have been ruled out, so Antone Smith and Peyton Barber will be the committee leaders with Mike James chipping in. We don't love that mix, not against a Falcons defense that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
Our plays in this one start with Evans and then Jones, and then extend to Ryan and Freeman here.
The rest of the Week 9 Slate Breakdown will be posted periodically through Friday afternoon.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return in what should be characterized as a "limited" capacity. That means a lot of short, quick drops and using Le'Veon Bell like he's going out of style.
Bell got the ball 31 times against the Patriots (21 rushes, 10 catches on 13 targets), so expect his number to be called frequently with a limited Big Ben or backup QB Landry Jones in there. Bell, who has 100-plus combined yards and a TD in three of the past four against Baltimore, is one of the premiums worth paying up for, despite the fact the Ravens boast the NFL's No. 4 run defense. Bell's usage in the passing game will keep him involved even if they take away the run. Also, DeAngelo Williams is returning from injury at something less than 100 percent.
Big Ben is a bargain, along with his set of wideouts Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey and even Eli Rogers, who head coach Mike Tomlin vowed to get more playing time. The Ravens, despite ranking No. 6 against the pass, have allowed the second-most points to fantasy WRs. A lot of that damage was done by Corey Coleman, Michael Crabtree and Odell Beckham Jr. Brown is sure to get his, while any one of the others could rack up a deep-ball TD off play-action.
The Ravens side is a lot less intriguing for DFS purposes, even if Las Vegas is favoring them at home. Terrance West is where everything stats, and finishes, for them, though. The Steelers have been third worst against fantasy RBs, allowing the fifth-most yards per rush (4.7) in the NFL.
We wouldn't touch Joe Flacco against a top 10 defense vs. QBs, especially if you can get Big Ben at a similar price. Flacco's targets are just too limited to test the fourth-best team in fantasy vs. WRs. Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken have been better in Steve Smith's (ankle) absence, but his potential return muddies anything you might do with a Ravens WR, including Breshad Perriman.
If you're going with a Ravens player not named West or Justin Tucker, it should be Dennis Pitta. He is fourth among NFL TEs with 38 receptions and the Steelers are bottom 10 in fantasy against TEs. He is a high-volume play who will eventually make a dent in GPPs with a red-zone score or two.
Defensively, both defenses are in the bargain range, but the fact both offenses figure to play a conservative game plan make it a less intriguing source of sacks and turnovers.
Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns
Everything is ripe for the Cowboys in DFS. If you're not playing the Steelers' Bell – or even if you are – you need to consider paying the premium for Ezekiel Elliott against the league's second-worst run defense. The Browns have given up the fourth-most points to fantasy RBs and this should be an easy day for Elliott and his monster offensive line.
The projected success of the running game will also open things up for Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant and perhaps even Jason Witten. They are bargains because of all of the volume that has been heaped on the running game, but Prescott's Week 8 performance showed he's ready to make plays downfield with Bryant's return and Tony Romo (back) looming on the sidelines. We like a Cowboys stack, even if you think they play down to their competition here at a non-conference opponent.
The Browns are fourth worst against fantasy QBs and TEs and sixth worst against WRs. Everything is in play. Even the mediocre Cowboys defense is going to see what should be a season-high of exposure in GPPs.
The Browns side is intriguing with the passing targets at least. WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge have been fairly consistent and they get the potential return of WR Corey Coleman (hand). QB Cody Kessler (concussion) is ready to return, too, and most of the game plan should be on him getting the ball to those guys, since the Cowboys are top 10 against the run and No. 4 in fantasy against RBs. We have been waiting weeks for the change to use Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson in a favorable matchup, but this is not one of them.
As much as this might look like a dud of a DFS game, we actually like the potential and value prices of many of the players on the board in this one.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs
We had all but given up on QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense, until they rose up in garbage time in the second half against the Titans. It is what they're built for – it's what they do – and the opportunity they should have again here.
We wouldn't touch T.J. Yeldon or Chris Ivory in the running game. Not only do they share time and hardly get any volume, but they also have to contend with a Chiefs defensive front that has given up just one rushing TD since Week 1.
As much as we cannot trust Bortles or his slew of weapons, we have to figure the Chiefs are going to give him garbage time in this one. It makes low price of WR Allen Robinson a favorable play, if not Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and TE Julius Thomas to boot. We would start with Robinson on talent and value and be more wary of the others – especially since the Chiefs held Andrew Luck to just 210 yards passing (on the road, no less).
The Chiefs are a heavy favorite, despite the fact they will be going to QB Nick Foles and potentially RB Charcandrick West in their starting lineup. West is a value play if Spencer Ware (concussion) is not cleared, while Foles played great in his Alex Smith's (head) absence.
Watch out for Foles stealing that job outright. He was great with TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill. The latter has taken over as the go-to Chiefs WR play, scoring a TD in three of the past four games. Even WR Jeremy Maclin, who scored a TD last week, is intriguing if you're believing in Foles at being a game changer downfield.
We like a Chiefs stack, including the defense and K Cairo Santos, with a Robinson play tossed in.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
The difficulty in this one is trusting the scorching hot Jay Ajayi, rusher of 200-plus yards in back-to-back games, against a Jets defensive front that is No. 1 in the NFL against the run. We say to heck with NFL rankings. Ajayi is too hot behind that resurgent Dolphins offensive line, and the Jets did allow 111-3 to David Johnson.
The rest of the Dolphins have much better matchups against the Jets, especially the WRs against the third-worst team against them, but the issue is whether you can trust it. You cannot like Ajayi right now. Sure, Jarvis Landry is a PPR option, but he doesn't score TDs. Kenny Stills does, but he doesn't get consistent targets. DeVante Parker has been hamstrung most of the season.
Someone there is going to make plays downfield. We will go with the value of Stills, if you're going with anyone.
The Jets side of things is just as interesting. Matt Forte is facing the third-worst run defense in football, and he has two TDs in each of his past two games. He is a play on volume and matchup.
Then, downfield, Brandon Marshall, Quincy Enunwa and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are all viable options against a Dolphins defense that has been bottom 10 against fantasy WRs. Those make Ryan Fitzpatrick a sleeper for 250-2, so consider him at his price if that production is enough for you.
Finally, there are not a lot of great defensive values on the board, so the Dolphins D/ST against the Jets' turnover-prone offense might be intriguing to many. The Jets have given up fantasy-highs 12 INTs and four defensive TDs – leading to the second-most points to fantasy D/STs.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Jim Schwartz's Eagles defense has slipped some of late, but it is still very tough at home and ranks No. 7 against fantasy QBs and WRs and No. 3 against TEs. It doesn't bode well for plays of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard or Victor Cruz – the latter of which is the lone favorably priced DFS option.
We do like the sleeper price of Larry Donnell, who should finally be 100 percent healthy and is a min-priced starting TE for a passing team that is facing some challenges downfield against the Eagles. This could be an RB and TE game for the Giants offense.
RB Rashad Jennings should also be healthier than he has been all season, coming off the bye, which lines him up for a nice sleeper game against an Eagles defense that has allowed the fifth-most yards per carry (4.7) in the NFL to date. Jennings' price looks right for a 60-1 rushing 4-45 receiving effort.
The Eagles offense is difficult to trust against an underrated Giants defense that has improved in recent weeks. They now rank No. 6 against fantasy QBs.
There are some value plays here, though, especially Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Sproles might have taken feature-back duties from Ryan Mathews of late and Sproles has been a Giant-killer, scoring four TDs (three rushing, one receiving) in his past five meetings. If you're looking for a bargain RB this week, he is as good of a play as any out of the top tiers.
If yuou cannot trust Donnell amid his awful season, give Ertz a look. He has yet to do anything consistent with Carson Wentz, but his price is very low and he had a monster 9-152 performance in the past meeting with the Giants.
Outside of the Giants' Jennings, the DFS values are all on the side of the home-standing Eagles, including their defense against the error-prone Manning.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Two teams that have had their season's spiraling downward, mostly because they cannot muster a running game. The Vikings defense has even produced of late either. There is not much to love from a DFS perspective here.
For the Lions, Theo Riddick (ankle) is a potential play for his receiving exploits, but there are cheaper backs on the board in better matchups. The Vikes are No. 4 against fantasy QBs, No. 2 against fantasy WRs and top 10 against fantasy TEs. Expect a lot of Riddick, as usual, when healthy.
On the Vikings side, the lack of a running game and the fact the Lions have allowed the fewest rushing TDs make them all difficult plays. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph are volume plays, but who has faith in Sam Bradford getting either of them in the end zone? Yeah, we agree.
Sure, the Lions had given up the third-most fantasy points to QBs and an NFL-high 19 TD passes, but Bradford instills little confidence. The best matchup lies with Rudolph, who faces the worst team in fantasy against TEs. The Lions have given up eight TE TDs in eight games.
Rudolph and the Vikes D/ST are what we're looking at as the only ones to truly move the needle in GPPs this week.
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams
This is the Alanis Morrisette game of the week: Disappointing, sad irony. The Panthers secondary has been exposed this season, but who the heck can count on anything from Case Keenum and Co.? We have to look at them, for better or for worse.
Keenum has been better after a slow start and is a bargain-priced passer, if you truly feel like punting QB. The Panthers, the NFL's fourth-worst pass defense, have been second worst against fantasy QBs and WRs and dead last against WRs.
Brian Quick is a huge bargain in the matchup, while Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are intriguing at their prices, too. Heck, even Todd Gurley is a value play now at his price, particularly because he has been so involved in the short passing game.
For the Panthers, Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen are all high-volume plays. The fact the Rams should be able to get some things accomplished against the maligned Panthers defense should make all of them productive in a game that goes over the number.
This might be the sleeper game of the week for DFS plays.
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
The public has pushed this line up this week, suggesting Las Vegas odd makers aren't quite as in love with the scoring in this one as much as the masses. We will take that as a sign. Fade this one – if only to be contrarian – as everyone else is on board.
Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener are all viable options against anyone, while the running game is a bit more muddled. Sure, the 49ers are dead last against the run and fantasy RBs, but Tim Hightower has usurped touches from Mark Ingram, so we cannot be sure which way to go in the committee. The masses like Hightower, but we are not sure Ingram won't rebound from his fumbling woes against a string of tough run defenses.
Carlos Hyde (shoulder) would be a great play against the Saints defense that has allowed the second-most points to fantasy RBs (next to the 49ers), but his injury questions make Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn or DuJuan Harris viable plays in his stead. It is all a crapshoot, and you might literally be shooting at just that.
If Hyde is active (and you learn that before the early kickoffs), he is the play there.
The fact the Saints just handled the Seattle Seahawks offense, though, should scare you off anything with the 49ers. Heck, in general, this game figures to be tough to gauge for DFS. There will be points scored, but good luck guessing where they will come from.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers
These are not the Titans you have known for the past few years. These Titans are capable and no longer pushovers defensively – despite what the lowly Jags did in garbage time last Thursday night.
Offensively, the Titans can run the football, making DeMarco Murray a steady cash-game play against a Chargers defense that has allowed the sixth-most points to fantasy RBs. Murray will get the rock 20-25 times and hit double digits in fantasy, as he does every week.
We also should like Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright as options against a Chargers secondary that is in the bottom 10 against the pass. Murray will move the ball into scoring position, where Mariota, Walker and Wright can make good on their modest prices – the latter in particular.
Despite the Titans boasting the fifth-best run defense, we cannot leave out exposure to Melvin Gordon. Even when he gets bottled up against eight-man fronts, Philip Rivers and the Chargers get him the ball in the short passing game and make him the featured weapon at the goal line. Gordon did yeoman's work against the elite Broncos defense (23-111 rushing and 4-44 receiving), so we should expect at least 15 fantasy points coming his way again.
The Titans have given up three consecutive 300-yard passing days and eight passing TD passes in the past, but Rivers is a bit less of an intriguing play, though. His WRs are banged up with knee issues (both Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams), as is TE Hunter Henry. Antonio Gates is healthy, but old and not a true downfield threat at his age. Consider him merely a 4-35-1 TE candidate, but there are a lot of those in fantasy right now.
There is a lot to like on both sides here, but the running backs are the ones who lead the way and will be where you should start with your plays from this one.
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers
This is an easy one to love, even if everyone in DFS already loves it. Andrew Luck facing a banged-up Packers secondary and a resurgent Aaron Rodgers shouldering the offensive onus like never before because of the Packers' lack of a true running game.
This game as the makings of one that could push 800-plus passing yards, a fantasy dream.
Luck's 300-yard games have come every other week this season, so it's a good time to jump on board. This is the odd week he goes off for 350-3.
It helps Luck's receiving corps is finally all healthy at once (T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle). It makes Luck a great play and clouds some of the clarity that has been Hilton and Doyle as the primary targets. All of them are viable plays, but we say you get your Colts exposure by going with Luck.
Frank Gore might even have to do his damage via the air. The Packers are No. 2 against the run and No. 1 against opposing fantasy RBs, making Gore a low-end DFS option – and Luck at that much more important.
Rodgers is hot, too, and the Colts just gave up over 300 yards and three TDs to the Chiefs' passing game. The Packers' lack of a feature RB leaves everything on the passing game. Jordy Nelson and resurgent Davante Adams are both great options, especially since Randall Cobb (hamstring) and RB/WR Ty Montgomery (sickle-cell trait) are both going to play at less than 100 percent, if they play at all.
Everything should be in play for DFS except the defenses in this potential legendary shootout.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Hopefully you got your Raiders' plays in last week, because messing with the Broncos defense in an important division game is not something you will want to do in DFS.
While this one is far more intriguing than Monday night's defensive battle – and there are some bargains to be had here – we should fade Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree against the NFL's No. 3 defense overall and No. 1 pass defense. Teams have been more apt to try to attack the Broncos on the ground of late, making Latavius Murray an option only as a contrarian play. The Raiders are going to score somehow at home.
The sleepers are on the Broncos' side of the ledger. The Raiders are second worst against the pass. While that shouldn't excite anyone to play Trevor Siemian, you can like the value of Emmanuel Sanders and the volume of Demaryius Thomas. Both are healthy and consistent and Siemian has done a great job targeting Thomas (10 times in each of the past three games).
Devontae Booker (shoulder) is a must play if he is active. The Broncos are a RB-friendly system both run and pass and the Raiders are an RB-friendly opponent, both run and pass. They have given up the ninth-most points to fantasy RBs, including eight TDs in eight games. They are also fifth worst against the run.
The Broncos defense usually is a great play, but being on the road, against a team that might be able to deliver at least some measure of damage with the pass, makes it a subpar week to play their D/ST.
Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks
Two contending teams with good defenses and offenses that score far fewer points than a contender should. It sure doesn't bode well for DFS points.
It you're taking a side, might as well go Seahawks heavy as they return home off a road loss. Being at home in prime time should help, too.
Fade everything in the banged-up Bills offense. LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is facing the No. 3 team against fantasy RBs at something less than 100 percent. No thanks. Even the WRs are all less than 100 percent for the Bills, not that you would consider them against the Legion of Boom anyway.
The Seahawks offense starts with the RBs, Christine Michael for a 60-1 rushing projection and C.J. Prosise with 60 combined yards and a receiving TD. They are more important because a banged-up Russell Wilson has moved the DFS needle just once this season and hasn't accounted for a TD in the past three games.
The bargain of Jermaine Kearse hitting a home run over the top off play-action is about all we can gleam from the Seahawks' downfield passing game. The Bills have one of the better secondaries in football, still ranking in the top 10 against fantasy QBs (despite being ripped by Tom Brady for 315-4 last week).
All told, even in prime-time DFS action, it is the Seahawks D/ST and their RBs that will be the go-to plays this week.
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