Naked. In Buffalo last weekend for the Bills/Eagles game, I felt completely naked. No, not because I went shirtless and painted my body. But every Sunday, I am glued to my computer and television, following all the games, stats, touchdowns, injuries, etc. However, I didn’t have that luxury last weekend so while I was in the home of my favorite football team, I felt out of place. Of course, I’m fully caught up and ready to get back to the grind. Week 9 should be a good one so let’s focus on NFL matchups for the 10-game main slate.
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For the Week 9 Thursday Night Showdown Breakdown with EMac, click HERE.
NFL DFS Early Slate
Washington at Buffalo Bills | Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs | Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers | Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles | New York Jets at Miami Dolphins | Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL DFS Late Slate
Week 9 byes: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans
Be sure to check out today’s NFL Strategy Show with Dave Loughran and Sal Vetri!
Washington Redskins @ Buffalo Bills
Line: BUF -10
Redskins passing game
While you aren’t in love with whoever is going to be under center for the Redskins this week, there is some uncertainty. Case Keenum left last Thursday night’s game with a concussion and remains in the protocol. If he can’t suit up, rookie Dwayne Haskins would draw the start. The Ohio State product has just not looked ready in limited action this season, averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt while sporting the second-lowest passer rating among all quarterbacks in the NFL (34.5).
Still, the matchup is poor regardless of who is starting at quarterback, as the Bills, despite their poor play last week, remain a top-tier pass defense. Buffalo is coughing up the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game (13.2) to opposing quarterbacks on the season, while allowing the sixth-fewest yards per completion (9.4), while four different signal callers have been held under 200 passing yards against the Bills. And in three games under interim head coach Bill Callahan, Washington has taken the air out of the ball, calling pass 46.4 percent of the time, the fourth-highest rate in football during that span. Neither Keenum nor Haskins should be on fantasy radars this weekend.
Through seven games, the Bills have yet to use star corner Tre’Davious White in shadow coverage. They play a zone defense and trust their players to hold their own in coverage. He did line up against tight end Zach Ertz quite a bit last week, but with Washington only having one true play-maker in the passing game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see White follow Terry McLaurin around the field here. Of course, he hasn’t shadowed anyone all year so we have to go into this game expecting McLaurin to remain on the left side of the formation 52 percent of the time, while White has only lined up on the right side four percent of the time. As a result, Buffalo’s number-two corner Levi Wallace has been targeted on 21 percent of his coverage routes, the ninth-highest rate among all corners on the slate this week.
McLaurin should remain plenty involved and has seen 28 percent of Washington’s red zone targets (10th among wide receivers) and 35.3 percent of their targets from inside the 10-yard line (seventh). Meanwhile, no receiver has seen a higher percentage of their team’s air yards than McLaurin (49 percent). He’s a strong WR3 this week, though I do worry about the efficiency.
Redskins running game
Over the last three weeks, the 34-year old Adrian Peterson is fifth in the NFL with 57 carries while averaging an impressive 4.8 yards per attempt during that span. The Redskins are clearly committed to the run right now, calling run 53.5 percent of the time since Callahan took over, the fourth-highest rate in football. In fact, over the last three weeks, Peterson is touching the football on 61.6 percent of his snaps, the third-highest rate among all qualified running backs during that stretch. Averaging 20.3 touches per game over his last three, this might be the final week where Peterson will be the every-down back for the Redskins, as they head on their bye in Week 10 and second-year back Derrius Guice likely returns in Week 11.
This may look like a bad matchup, but as I’ve stated, Buffalo is quite vulnerable against the run, and that showed last week; they allowed three rushing scores and over 200 yards to the Eagles. The Bills are now allowing 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game this season (third-most), while 56.2 percent of all touchdowns surrendered by this defense have come on the ground, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Peterson should remain heavily involved and this matchup is solid. Consider him a top-25 running back play, especially with four teams on bye this week.
Bills passing game
It definitely wasn’t pretty but we got another strong floor game from Josh Allen last week. He completed just 47 percent of his passes for 169 yards but threw two touchdowns and ran for 45 yards. The passing conditions were terrible in Buffalo all day, as winds reached up to 40 mph at times. Regardless, Allen has tossed two touchdown passes in three consecutive games, while the rushing upside isn’t going anywhere. After running with the ball eight times on Sunday, Allen is now averaging a healthy 7.6 carries per game for nearly 34 yards, the second- and third-most among all quarterbacks.
The Redskins, meanwhile, have surrendered the sixth-most rushing yards per game to opposing signal callers this season. Washington is also allowing 2.25 points per drive on the year, the sixth-most in the league, as well as the ninth-most yards per pass attempt (7.7), making this another favorable matchup for Allen and the Buffalo passing game. Consider him a top-10 play once again this week and a solid cash game option in NFL DFS contests.
The weather impacted the passing games in Buffalo last week but it didn’t stop John Brown from posting another 54 receiving yards. He still joins New Orleans’ Michael Thomas as the only wide receivers in the NFL with at least 50 yards in every game this season, and he is seeing about 24 percent of Buffalo’s targets. I love his potential this week, facing a weak Washington secondary that has surrendered the 12th-most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts lined up on the right side of the formation (13), where Brown aligns nearly 35 percent of the time. And since he wasn’t traded, he’ll see coverage from veteran Josh Norman, who is washed.
On the season, Norman is coughing up a whopping 2.72 fantasy points per target, one of the worst marks in all of football, as well as 0.50 fantasy points per coverage snap. Brown has caught at least five passes in all but one game this season, including four straight, and should remain a strong floor, high-upside option this week against the Redskins.
Cole Beasley found the end zone for the second consecutive game last week. The veteran has also seen right around a 24 percent target share on the season and has been targeted on 16 percent of his snaps through eight weeks, which is the 11th-highest rate among all receivers with at least 20 targets this year. The Redskins have allowed the eighth-most completions per game this season, as well as nearly 2.0 passing scores per game, making Beasley a viable PPR FLEX once again, especially with a ton of really good receivers on bye. And at just $4,100 on DK, I have some interest there as well.
Bills running game
Devin Singletary played 40 snaps last weekend, his most since Week 1. Of course, the Bills were chasing points during the entire second half and abandoned the run, so it wasn’t as if they just benched Frank Gore and turned to the rookie. Buffalo called run 34.4 percent of the time against the Eagles, down from their 42 percent clip for the season, hence Gore only playing a season-low 17 snaps. There is no denying that Singletary is explosive, as six of his 20 rushing attempts this season have gone for at least 15 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. And he scored on a 28-yard catch and run last week where he ran down the sideline and made a nice cut towards the middle to get into the end zone.
He’s averaging over eight yards per touch but won’t see more than 6–10 touches per game with Gore still in the mix. Both are flex options this weekend against the Redskins, as Buffalo are 10-point home favorites. Opposing offenses are running the ball 47 percent of the time against Washington this year, the sixth-highest rate in football. Meanwhile, the Redskins have allowed the fourth-most rushing plays of 20 yards or more (7), as well as the fifth-most rushing yards per game (137.8).
Minnesota Vikings @ Kansas City Chiefs
Line: MIN -2.5
Vikings passing game
Kirk Cousins once again played well last week but the touchdowns weren’t there. Cousins completed all but three passes last Thursday night against the Redskins for 285 yards, while averaging an impressive 11 yards per attempt. Over the last four weeks, Cousins has played the quarterback position as well as anyone in the league, ranking third in yards (1,494), second in touchdown passes (10), first in 300-yard games (three) and fifth in fantasy points per dropback (0.59). The efficiency has been fantastic and now he gets Adam Thielen back from his hamstring injury injury in a matchup with the Chiefs, a very exploitable defense.
Kansas City is now allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks on the season (19.8). However, Cousins is now at $6,700 on DraftKings, a very, very hefty price tag, especially for someone who has been under 30 pass attempts in five of eight games this season. Cousins is averaging just 26.9 passes per game and is 22nd in total attempts with 215, so paying an absolute premium for him is scary, especially in a spot where the Minnesota ground game should be able to do whatever they want. I have zero issues riding the hot hand with Cousins as a seasonal play but I likely won’t have much at his elevated price tag in DFS.
After being declared a bust to start this season, Stefon Diggs has risen from the dead as of late, very fitting for this time of year. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of his last three games and during that span, Diggs ranks third among receivers in receptions (21), first in receptions of 40 yards or more (3), first in yards (452), second in touchdown grabs (3), second in yards per target (17.3) and first in fantasy points (86.0). Of course, a lot of that is due to his monster game against the Eagles but Diggs is capable of games like that because he’s a very good player.
The return of Thielen will likely bump Diggs back to 5–7 targets if Cousins continues to throw the ball fewer than 30 times but there is too much upside to bench him unless you are loaded at receiver. Suddenly, no wideout in all of football is averaging more yards per route than Diggs (4.12), while ranking fourth in yards per reception (19.1) and first in yards per target (14.4). The Vikings will continue to take shots down the field, while Cousins is fourth in the NFL in deep completion rate at 51.7 percent.
Assuming Thielen is ready to roll, you are plugging him right back into your lineup. The matchup is actually better for Thielen than Diggs, as the Chiefs are allowing 22.7 fantasy points per game to the slot this season, per PFF, the ninth-most in football. Thielen’s slot snaps have come down this year but has lined up there around 30 percent of the time since Week 6, while Diggs is at 16.5 percent. Nickel corner Kendall Fuller is still nursing a hand injury, making this a solid matchup for Thielen.
The Vikings continue to use both of their tight ends. Veteran Kyle Rudolph has played over 89 percent of the snaps but rookie Irv Smith has played a healthy 52.1 percent, though that number has been at 58 percent since Week 6. Smith would be a very fun player to use in fantasy if Rudolph wasn’t in the picture. The rookie is third among all tight ends in yards per target (10.2) and 11th in yards per pass route (2.35). However, the Vikings are running the ball so much, which means Rudolph will remain on the field, as his 235 run-blocking snaps lead all tight ends in football. Of course, that means his upside is extremely capped, as he’s 18th at the position in routes run, making him a touchdown-or-bust fantasy option. Over the last two weeks, Smith has played 60 percent of the snaps and has seen nine targets, so I wouldn’t hate the idea of using him as a punt tight end this weekend.
Vikings running game
Dalvin Cook has played eight games this season. He’s eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards in six of them. The guy is putting together a career year, rushing for 100 yards or more five different times. Cook has just been fantastic, averaging 23.5 fantasy points per game, while leading the NFL with 823 rushing yards (102.9 per game). He’s also fifth in yards after contact per attempt (3.41) and is in another prime spot this weekend, facing a bad Kansas City run defense that just allowed four running back touchdowns to the Packers last week.
On the season, the Chiefs are surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing backfields (27.6), as well as 1.2 rushing scores per game (fourth-most). Just 12 percent of all runs against the Chiefs this season have been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage, the lowest rate in all of football. Meanwhile, the Vikings are creating the most second-level yards per carry in the league (1.40), according to Football Outsiders. Assuming this game stays competitive, 22–25 touches is a lock for Cook, who should once again be viewed as arguably the top play of the entire slate.
I love Alexander Mattison. He’s so, so good and if anything were to happen to Cook, he’d be a top-10 fantasy running back. The guy rushed for 61 yards on 13 carries last week, despite having multiple 10–15 yard runs called back. Mattison is so explosive, as seven of his 68 rushing attempts have gone for at least 15 yards this season. His three games with double-digit carries this season have come with Minnesota letting him grind down the clock while up multiple possessions, but he still sees around 5–7 carries in competitive games. Against this awful Chiefs run defense, don’t be surprised when he rips off a few big runs.
Chiefs passing game
While they didn’t get the win, the first game without Patrick Mahomes certainly wasn’t a disaster. Veteran signal-caller Matt Moore held his own and kept the offense afloat, throwing for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Packers on Sunday night. The play-calling was scaled back a bit, as the Chiefs didn’t take many shots down the field. Kansas City still has a plethora of dangerous skill players for Moore to work with, making Moore absolutely in play in daily contests this season, especially at just $4,800. Minnesota is a solid pass defense, coughing up just 9.1 yards per completion, the third-lowest mark in football. However, they have also been a bit of a pass funnel, as 93.3 percent of all touchdowns allowed by the Vikings have come through the air, easily the highest rate in the NFL.
It was awesome to see Travis Kelce get back into the end zone last week, his first score since Week 2 and just his second of the year. Kelce has seen at least eight targets in all but one game this season, sporting a healthy 22.6 percent target share, fifth among all tight ends. Meanwhile, his 65 total targets lead the position, as do his 604 receiving yards. All of this bodes well for Kelce in a matchup with the Vikings, who are still allowing the most targets per game to opposing tight ends in all of football at 9.5. Meanwhile, only the lowly Cardinals are coughing up more receptions per game to the position (6.4), setting up Kelce for some strong numbers here in Week 9.
It wasn’t a slate-breaking performance from Tyreek Hill last week, but you can’t be mad at six catches for 76 yards on nine targets with his backup quarterback. He was targeted 17 percent of his snaps during his first full game with Moore, which was a top-20 rate from this past week. Hill will line up against Xavier Rhodes for a large chunk of this game, which I actually like for the speedster. Rhodes is overrated, is always limping off the field and over the course of his career, has had issues with the smaller, faster wide receivers like Hill. You are starting him every week but in what may be viewed as a bad matchup, I have plenty of GPP interest in Hill in DFS this weekend.
Sammy Watkins has done virtually nothing since his huge Week 1 outing. All three of his touchdowns came during that game, while nearly 54 percent of his total fantasy points came from that huge outing. Watkins did see a healthy eight targets last game and played 86 percent of the offensive snaps, giving him all of the opportunity to produce solid fantasy numbers. Maybe his snaps jump up to that 90 percent mark in his second game since returning from injury but Watkins is nothing more than a WR3 right now, regardless of who is under center for the Chiefs.
Despite seeing his snaps and targets drop over the last three weeks, Mecole Hardman has scored in consecutive weeks, as the speedster continues to rip off big plays. Over the last two weeks, Hardman has played just 48 and 15 percent of the offensive snaps for the Chiefs, while they continue to use him as their return man. It looks like Kansas City will continue to mix-and-match Hardman, making his playing time somewhat unpredictable and often lacking. Because he can take a screen 70 yards to the house, he is worth a desperation FLEX play in deeper leagues.
Chiefs running game
It appeared that LeSean McCoy had taken over the lead role in Kansas City. He’s started each of the last two games and has played 41 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks. However, that number would have been higher if McCoy hadn’t fumbled against the Packers last Sunday night, which kept him off the field for the entire fourth quarter. As a result, Damien Williams got the work in his absence, as McCoy was banished to the bench. All seven of Williams’ carries came after McCoy fumbled and he took advantage, rushing for 30 yards and a touchdown.
It remains to be seen whether or not Williams now has the edge but this was McCoy’s second fumble over the last four games and he didn’t step onto the field after his fumble against the Packers last Sunday night. I’d like to think McCoy is still the best bet but he and Williams are nothing more than flex plays, especially against a Minnesota defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown on the season, the lowest number in football.
Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers
Line: CAR -4
Titans passing game
The Tennessee aerial attack continues to get life sucked into it by Ryan Tannehill. The veteran passer has now thrown five touchdowns to one interception in his two starts, while completing over 70 percent of his passes. Unlike Marcus Mariota, Tannehill is giving his receivers chances to make plays on the ball, rather than only throwing to them when they are wide open. 75.6 percent of his pass attempts this season have been deemed on target, the seventh-highest rate in the league to this point. Meanwhile, 25.6 percent of his pass attempts have been into tight windows, the second-highest rate in all of football.
Now, I’m not saying I want to go back to him this week, facing a strong Carolina defense (despite last week’s showing) that is generating pressure 26 percent of the time, good for the seventh-highest rate in football. The Panthers are also allowing just 9.2 yards per completion, the fifth-lowest mark in football, making Tannehill a pass for me this weekend. That said, I love what he’s done for these Tennessee pass-catchers.
Speaking of, A.J. Brown salvaged his day with a fourth-quarter touchdown. He was only targeted three times but once again played over 60 percent of the offensive snaps for the Titans. I still have interest in him because of his rare combination of size and speed, which has resulted in the rookie averaging 10.2 yards per target, the 14th-most among all wide receivers this season. I usually prefer him to Corey Davis because the latter is viewed as Tennessee’s number-one wideout, which results in him seeing coverage from the opposition’s top corner every week.
In this case, it’ll be James Bradberry lined up against Davis, while Brown will play on the left side of the formation, where Carolina allows the 12th-most fantasy points per game this season. Bradberry, meanwhile, is allowing 1.21 fantasy points per target and a 69.8 passer rating in coverage this year, both top-10 marks among all cornerbacks, making Davis a tough sell, especially coming off a dud against one of the worst pass defenses in football last week.
With Delanie Walker (ankle) out last week, Jonnu Smith took advantage of the increased opportunity, catching six of seven targets for 78 yards and a touchdown. He actually tied teammate Anthony Firkser with 18 pass routes in this game, though he did play 83 percent of the snaps. If Walker sits out again, Smith would be a top-12 tight end play by default but would have more upside than most options, as the athletic tight end currently ranks fifth at his position in yards per route (3.03), while leading all tight ends in both yards per reception (15.9) and yards per target (12.6). The Panthers have been very good against tight ends on the season, coughing up the ninth-fewest fantasy points and seventh-fewest yards per game to the position, but the only truly viable one they have faced is George Kittle.
Titans running game
It was a tough matchup for Derrick Henry last week but he finished with a respectable 75 yards on 16 carries against the top run defense in football. Of course, he continues to offer almost nothing in the passing game, but Henry is still averaging a healthy 18.9 carries per game this season, while his 151 total carries are fourth-most in football. We just saw Tevin Coleman absolutely destroy this Carolina run defense last week, who are now surrendering a league-leading 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game on the season. The Panthers are also allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing backfields and while it may seem like last week’s performance has skewed everything, Carolina has still allowed at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season. Keep using Henry as an RB2 the rest of the way.
Panthers passing game
Kyle Allen will once again start for the Panthers this weekend, as Cam Newton isn’t quite ready yet. Allen, who entered last week’s game with 153 consecutive attempts without an interception to begin a career, threw three picks against the 49ers on Sunday. He was also sacked seven times against that stout pass rush and now returns home to face another strong defense in Tennessee. Allen has maxed out at 261 passing yards this season, while Tennessee is coughing up just 1.42 points per drive on the year, the fourth-best mark in football. He also is just 29th in play-action completion rate (60.9%), 36th in deep ball completion rate (18.8%) and 30th in pressured completion rate (27.3%), making him someone I am not thrilled about using this weekend.
Since Allen took over at quarterback for the Panthers, here is how the Carolina pass-catchers have shaped up:
Targets: 37 Targets: 34 Targets: 22
Targets per game: 7.4 Targets per game: 6.8 Targets per game: 4.4
Target rate: 13.1% Target rate: 11.6% Target rate: 7.5%
Samuel has the slight edge, while being targeted on 13.1 percent of his snaps, the highest rate on the team with Allen under center. Per usual, Samuel is my favorite of the Carolina receivers, especially in daily formats where he is once again fairly cheap. The Titans lost Adoree’ Jackson to injury last week and had to plug in LeShaun Sims, who had a tough time, allowing five catches for 76 yards, one touchdown and a 146.4 passer rating in coverage. Samuel and Moore are nearly identical in terms of fantasy points per target, though Samuel has run six more routes on the season. When it is this close, just give me the cheaper guy in Samuel.
But that isn’t to say Moore is a bad play. He’ll see the vulnerable Malcolm Butler, who has allowed three touchdowns and nearly 400 receiving yards in coverage this season. At under $5,000 on a slate where we need value, I have interest in both Carolina wideouts this weekend.
After somewhat of a hot start, Olsen has fallen off as of late. Over his last four games, Olsen is averaging an ugly two receptions for 17.5 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. Olsen is still fifth among all tight ends in routes run (220) but is outside of the top-22 in both yards per pass route and yards per target, limiting the upside. Still, an every-down tight end is going to be in your starting lineup, especially this time of the year, while the Titans are bottom-10 in fantasy points (10.4) and targets (7.4) per game to opposing tight ends on the season.
Panthers running game
In the worst possible game imaginable last week, Christian McCaffrey still eclipsed 100 rushing yards, still scored a touchdown and still got you 30 fantasy points. Need I say more? The fantasy MVP still leads the league with an 89.7 percent opportunity share, while also ranking fifth in carries (141) and third among running backs in targets (50). McCaffrey is now $10,000 on DK, forcing you to make the decision: do you pay up for him or go down to other running backs? At the moment, there isn’t a ton of value on this slate, but getting that safety in McCaffrey has been so important all year long. The Titans are coughing up the second-most receptions per game to opposing running backs this season (6.5), for what it is worth.