NFL DFS Week 9 Picks
The NFL Halloween week is mercifully over, with all the players that turned into pumpkins now reverted back to their original forms. It is another week to cast doubt upon said players on whether or not their attempts at ravaging your poor, meager lineups were indeed showing their true colors or just simply a mirage. Will Golladay return to his god-like form or stay forever a pumpkin, cursed by the witch Patricia to never be fantasy relevant? Can the Rams passing attack actually give touchdowns to anyone not named Todd Gurley or Josh Reynolds? Are the Browns going to finally turn into the Pumpkins so no one will dare roster them and allow those orange-faced players destroy their lineups? When will the kicker position return on DraftKings? All important questions that will hopefully be answered in the next 8 weeks, but it is time to dive into NFL DFS Week 9 picks and value plays. As always, I will strive to continue my ascent as the ultimate fantasy oracle with my increasingly accurate sleeper picks. Behold!
Cam Newton is by far and away the best QB play on the slate, with the optimizer declaring Newton as the best overall play across all positions. I have to wholeheartedly agree with the robot, as Newton and the Panthers have been quite pass-friendly over the last few games since Olsen’s return. The Panthers used to be more 50/50 in their pass/run ratios, but with Greg Olsen back in the lineup that number has shifted to more of a 65/45 ratio. More passing means more points for Newton in a tantalizing matchup against a Bucs pass coverage that resembles more of a Division III defense than an actual NFL defense. It’s a sad but true statement, as the Bucs defense now gives up the most points per snap with the highest points per game average. Tack on the most touchdown passes allowed (20) and 3rd most passing yards to QBs. Newton has also been stellar this season as he is on pace to have his best completion percentage and QB passer rating. Not only that, he’s actively been running at the same pace as last season with 8.9 attempts per game compared to 8.7 last year. The increased playing time of both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel plus Olsen has truly opened up the Panthers passing attack, and having the luxury of 4-5 extra points from rushing alone makes Newton an absolute must play. You’d be a fool to ignore the glowing fantasy gold mine that is HAM CAM NEWTON!
Patrick Mahomes probably will always be considered a top play every week the rest of the way, but I’m bullish on their passing attack against the number one DVOA Browns pass defense. I expect the Chiefs to exploit the 27th run defense instead, lowering Mahomes’ overall value in my eyes. That makes picking a secondary top QB play a little difficult, as both Goff and Brees stand out as great value plays as well. I think I’ll go with Goff over Brees on the heel of the Saints reverting back into last season’s run-heavy gameplan. The Saints added Eli Apple to their 29th DVOA pass defense, and the results were rather mixed against the Vikings. Cousins was still able to stat pad his way to 351 passing yards and two TDs, despite the Saints forcing a few turnovers and a costly pick-six. One thing that continues to be a sticking point for the Saints has been their stout run defense, giving up the fewest total rushing yards and only 3.2 yards per carry. That just might mean Goff will have to stop handing it off 500 times to the eventual league MVP Todd Gurley and actually start playing like a real QB. The only numbers that matter with Goff is how often the Rams run with three receivers – 94% in the 11 personnel (3 WR 1 TE 1 RB). That means Goff almost always has all of his weapons on the field, including the return of Cooper Kupp from his knee injury. Let’s not think too hard about this one with the Saints defense giving up the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing QBs, Kupp’s return, and a Saints run defense that’s actually been good. Just jam him in.
With Jared Goff out the value play market, one may turn towards Ryan FitzMagic as the value play of the week. Nope, not this time. That’s not to say he isn’t worthy of being considered as a top value play since his price didn’t really jump up much after being named the starter. I’m just trying to pivot away from the popular beard pick and gravitating to….ah, screw it. I’ll jam in some FitzMagic as well n a favorable matchup against the Panthers. It’s most likely a shoot-out game anyway, with the Bucs running the 4th most plays and heavily skewing towards the pass with a 66% passing ratio over the last three games. We all know the story with Fitzpatrick at the start of the season, and we all know what happened when Shameis Winston got benched last week in favor of the magical bearded man. Let’s not go down this road to explain why Fitzpatrick is a damn good value play. Ignore the 20th DVOA Carolina pass defense giving up the 15th most points to opposing QBs. Especially ignore the rising plays given up by the defense (65.3 over last three games) that would equate to the 10th highest average among all teams. Just ignore all of that. All you have to do is believe in magic. That’s all.
It seems as if Joe Flacco is perpetually stuck as a sleeper pick for most weeks. He just continues to be kind of an okay play despite being on a Ravens offense that operates at the second-fastest pace with the most offensive plays per game. It’s a mystifying situation that continues to perplex the brave ones that decide to roster him unironically in their DFS lineups. Still, Flacco has been able to manage decent fantasy outings regardless of his own mediocrity. He’s on a little bit of a decline lately compared to his early season numbers, but a grudge match against a Pittsburgh defense giving up the 5th most fantasy PPG to opposing QBs just might be what the doctor ordered. He’s already faced Pitt on the road with a fantastic 363-yard day and two TDs, so expectations are about the same for a home game. Steelers have not improved their pass defense since that game, ranking 23rd DVOA and sporting a 6th worst PFF graded pass rush. Brutal. Pitt’s defense has also been stout against the run, giving up the 4th fewest total rushing yards and 2nd fewest fantasy PPG to opposing RBs. Nice game script. As long as the Ravens continue to employ such a dizzying pace with copious amounts of offensive plays, Wacco Flacco is here to stay much to the chagrin of…well, everyone.
It’s a week to decide whether or not you want to fade Todd Gurley against a legitimate run defense. Do you fade his red zone usage when you consider the fact that the Rams are likely to see the red zone regardless of Gurley’s actual rushing performance? Do you fade Gurley’s target share (16.94%, 4th on team) and ignore his passing work? Those are all the questions that need to be answered before deciding on a top RB play. Chances are you decided to not be a donkey and jam in Gurley at his unusually low price on DraftKings. On the off chance that you decided to be brave and walk the road not taken, there are a couple good RB choices to choose from for your Gurley substitute.
My personal favorite anti-Gurley choice is Kareem Hunt, as he’ll likely get a Gurley-like workload against the aforementioned 27th DVOA Browns run defense. Hunt had an incredible touchdown “catch” last week that saved his fantasy day, but he’d actually been an absolute workhorse before that with a 20 touch average in the previous four games. Hunt received 21 touches last week but was only able to turn it into 86 total yards, well below his near 150 yards average from the same span. The Browns just saw James Conner terminate the entire run defense with an astounding 212 total yards and two touchdowns. Those are easily attainable numbers for Hunt, whose passing work has also steadily increased over the past month. It’s time to take advantage of recency bias with Hunt and lock him in your lineups while others ignore him in favor of other Chiefs weapons.
Once you get past the top RBs on the slate, the RB landscape suddenly looks precarious and grim. Do you trust the Dolphins to feed Kenyan Drake against an injured Jets team? Probably not. Do you trust the hapless Browns at utilizing Nick Chubb in an extremely favorable matchup versus the Chiefs? I mean, that Gregg Williams guy sure seems like the type to run his RBs into the ground. Guess that’s probably another pass. How about Latavius Murray in another workhorse role against the Lions? Huh? Dalvin Cook might play? What? Damon Harrison is on the team? Are you kidding me? Philip Rivers Tilt Face. FINE! Here’s the true value RB play of the week….
….Are you ready for it? It’s Christopher Carson! YES! A Seattle running back! The best of the best! Carson has actually been quietly inserting himself into the RB2 conversation for a little bit now, running for 100+ yards in 3 of the last 4 games. He averaged 27 touches in that span, cashing in two touchdowns while collecting a few catches here and there. He’ll get a 21st DVOA Chargers run defense that will continue to play without their star DE, Joey Bosa. The Seahawks have been the run-heaviest team by a large margin at 52% run rate, but that number has actually ballooned to 62% over the past three games. That means the Seahawks are willing to simply feed their running backs over and over and over and over again. Great news for Carson at a discounted price in a solid matchup. More numbers? Chargers are giving up 4.3 yards a carry, 15th most points to opposing RBs, and rank as PFF’s 5th best pass coverage unit. More cowbell, more Carson!
Maybe not really a sleeper pick since he’s a known commodity, but I’m inserting Adrian Peterson here nevertheless. He’s been on a rampage since Chris Thompson went down with an injury in Week 5, amassing 345 rushing yards on 67 carries over the last three games. The Redskins clearly see AP as an offensive centerpiece, and even continued to ride the train despite Thompson’s return last week. Peterson will face the 2nd worst DVOA Atlanta run defense with a Redskins offense skewing towards a 48% run rate over Peterson’s emergence in the last three games. Great numbers for a great RB! The only knock on All Day is his lack of passing work, making him a little bit of a hard pill to swallow on non-PPR sites. Still, it’s a favorable matchup on an offense that simply refuses to let Alex Smith be more than a game manager (223 yards per game). If the Redskins want to slow down the vaunted Falcons passing attack and get an important win to stay within the Eagles for the division, they’ll likely rely on the thoroughbred horse legs of Peterson.
Adam Thielen would have to be the ultimate top play if Diggs were to miss the game, but chances are no one will truly know Diggs’ availability before Sunday. With that said, I’m leaning towards attacking the Saints/Rams game for my favorite top WR plays of the week.
Let’s start with Michael Thomas, who should be able to get the best of a struggling Marcus Peters on a high percentage of his routes. Peters has given up the 7th most yards in his coverage with the 2nd most touchdowns given up (tied with 4 others). Add in his fellow teammate Troy Hill, who’s been a recent victim over the past three games with the second most yards given up (280). That means wherever Thomas goes out on the boundary (70% of routes ran), it will be a plus matchup for the elite WR looking to come back to his insane early season numbers. The increased run rate by the Saints (53% over last 3, compared to 43% overall) certainly puts a damper on Thomas’ ceiling, but I simply cannot ignore a great matchup in a potential shoot-out. He’s going to be lower owned due to recency bias plus the high run rate, making Thomas a possible slate breaker.
On the other side of that game lies several great options with Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp. They all can have big games and generally rotate their receiving roles, with Kupp being the primary slot receiver between the three. I favor Woods once more, as he’ll probably face Eli Apple’s coverage more than Lattimore. Apple’s debut as a Saint last week didn’t go too well, surrendering 79 yards on 8 catches but no touchdowns. Woods’ last two games have been some of his lowest total yardages since Week 1 where he only mustered 41 total yards. That could also aid in his ownership with recency bias and Gurley eating into his TD equity. I’m still on the Woods train as his overall numbers haven’t changed from his season averages, In fact, his aDOT has risen from 10.4 during Week 2-5 to 11.5 from the last three games. He’s still seeing his usual amount of air yards and targets, even running at near his usual yards per route run (2.72 Week 2-5, 2.52 last three). Woods also dabbles in the slot every now and then, seeing at least 20 snaps in the slot before Kupp’s injury. That means he also will run into P.J. Williams’ coverage in addition to Apple. Williams is also a member of the “2nd most TDs given up club” with Peters, also surrendering 352 yards in his coverage. The matchup is there, the numbers are still there, and a stout front seven should force more Goff pass attempts than handoff attempts to Gurley. Stay strong.
Great week for picking value WR plays. There’s plenty of options in the mid/lower tiers, but the ones that pop to me are Devin Funchess, DeVante Parker, and Courtland Sutton. Sutton is an obvious one with the Demaryius Thomas trade catapulting him as the second option for the Broncos’ passing attack. The thing with Sutton is he had been on the cusp of outright replacing Thomas with his recent usage especially with his air yards (16.7 aDOT over last three, 14 on the season). He’s established himself as the deep threat with actual hands, something the Broncos were lacking with Thomas. He’ll be a player to watch from here on if he can show big things against a decent pass defense.
Funchess should be the popular option to stack with Newton as he’s consistently performed every week. Well, except for last week’s 3/27/0 dud. Outside of that game, Funchess was a consistent target for Newton, averaging close to 9 targets a game over the last three games (not counting last week, of course). He’ll get the Bucs defense that I already poured gasoline on in the Newton segment. It’s an easy slam dunk play with his increased red zone work (4 targets last three, 8 on the year).
Now here comes the homer pick. DeVante Parker may have got a quarter of his yards on an incredibly lucky tipped pass, but he was still a dominant force on the field with Osweiler in. It’s not yet known whether or not Tannehill suits up, but whoever the QB is should still be able to feed Parker. He’ll get a Jets secondary that’s been getting annihilated over the past month, giving up 10 passing touchdowns in the last four games. That’s good news for a rather mediocre Dolphins pass offense that’s heavily reliant on a plodding pace. Parker should continue to be a target hog for a Miami team that lost most of its speed with Wilson and Stills on the shelf. Jakeem Grant isn’t reliable as an every down WR despite my love for the Mighty Ant, and the Dolphins have to replace 31% of those lost target shares with someone. Parker’s aDOT last week was an impressive 15.1, confirming that Parker isn’t simply being used as a short route possession WR. Just hope and pray that Miami gets enough plays against the Jets and doesn’t give Gore 40 carries.
Deandre Hopkins continues to be a force to be reckoned with, now adding his legs to his absurd catch radius. He’ll get a Broncos defense that’s been hit or miss on a weekly basis. Overall, the Broncos pass defense rank 2nd DVOA and have given up the 14th least fantasy PPG to opposing receivers. That number is even lower to opposing QBs (11th fewest), so why am I naming Hopkins as my sleeper pick? It’s the defense’s inconsistent play that gives me hope that an absolute stud WR like Hopkins can turn the Broncos’ mistakes into big-play touchdowns. As an example, I’ll use the CB that should be responsible for the majority of Nuk’s routes, Bradley Roby. Currently, Roby has a passer rating of 115.3 on attempts thrown his way, with 486 yards given up and four TDs. In Week 8, Roby was responsible for a very bad 7/111/1 stat-line in his coverage. In the two weeks prior, Roby only gave up 62 yards on six catches but allowed 3/125/2 in Week 5. Yikes. That kind of inconsistency isn’t restricted to just Roby’s play, as the Broncos essentially live and die by the pass rush. Watson’s improved mobility pocket movement and the increase of the no-huddle has lessened the burden of a below average offensive line. All good signs for a big Nuk breakout game to me.
Oh, here we go again. What’s the point of picking anybody at TE? Just pick Travis Kelce and be done with it. The guy has been one of the most consistent players at a devalued position. He’s averaging nine targets a game, has three 100+ yard games and is tied for 2nd across all TE categories. The optimizer has Kelce far and away as the best TE play on the slate. In fact, it’s an obnoxiously large lead that it’s not worth mentioning anyone else regardless of the matchup. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck….
You know what’s a team that’s recently been getting carved up by opposing TEs? It’s the Panthers! And O.J. Howard just so happens to be a top ten TE on the season! Hey, a stack target to pair with the Magical Beard! Howard has the second highest aDOT among eligible TEs at 12.2, an incredible number for a tight end in an offense full of weapons. The Panthers currently give up the most fantasy points to opposing TEs, rank 28th DVOA for their TE coverage unit, and are tied with five others for most touchdowns given up to the position. Howard is worth paying up just a little bit above the usual basement/lower tier TE values that just seem to never hit. You could also just go with the Herndog against a Miami defense that loves giving up troll TDs to random TEs. Shrug.
Stick with me here. I’m going to add the stack option to Wacco Joe Flacco to macco your lineups a smacco hit. Hayden Hurst saw his highest amount of snaps (18.18, 30 last three games) and usage last week, which led to a modest 2/29/1 day. Huge numbers, right? Yeah, yeah. The Steelers give up the 3rd most fantasy points PPG to opposing TEs, 8th most yards, and 2nd most touchdowns (tied with 4 others). If Hurst can continue to ramp up his offensive snaps, he has a fantastic matchup at a bottom basement price in a game that should have elevated snap counts. The 50-year-old rookie has room to grow and we all know the Ravens love them some nonathletic tight ends for Flacco to inaccurately throw into the teeth of the defense, causing a concussion or two in the process. Poor Dennis Pitta.