1:00PM ET Games
Green Bay @ Carolina
The Vegas total on Packers-Panthers is 46 points with Green Bay favored by 2.5. The Packers' team total is a tick above 24 points. ... I like Green Bay to finish below its scoring approximation versus a shutdown Carolina pass defense that ranks No. 2 in Football Outsiders' DVOA with a league-low 64.5 passer rating against. Aaron Rodgers has gone four straight games without finishing as a top-ten weekly fantasy QB1, while the Panthers have yet to allow an opposing quarterback to finish as a top-12 scorer on the year. DFS players should hope for another slow week from Rodgers -- resulting in a price drop -- then fire him up against the Lions in Week 10. ... Following last Monday night's win over Indianapolis, Carolina will play this game on a short week. The Panthers' defensive vulnerability is on the ground, where they've ceded 463 yards and three TDs on 100 carries (4.63 YPC) to opposing running backs over their last four games. Carolina is a middling 16th in run-defense DVOA. Although he logged a disappointing 46% snap rate in last week's loss to Denver, Eddie Lacy did retake lead duties from James Starks, handling 12 touches to Starks' seven with a two-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter. Lacy's to-date performance and usage have downgraded him into mid-range RB2 territory, but he's a passable play in season-long leagues in a decent matchup with six NFL teams on byes.
Rodgers' target distribution in Davante Adams' three full games played this year: Randall Cobb 25; Adams 15; Richard Rodgers 11; James Jones 9; Starks 6; Lacy 5. ... With Panthers LCB Josh Norman and RCB Charles Tillman eliminating the perimeter, this game sets up for Cobb to see heavy volume against Panthers slot CB Bene Benwikere, whom Pro Football Focus has charged with 12 catches allowed on 14 targets over the last two weeks, including cement-footed Andre Johnson's 4-81-1 number on Monday night. Cobb is a high-end WR2 play in season-long leagues and an intriguing DFS tournament option with his price tag in decline. ... Norman does not play in the slot and should spend most of this game on Adams, with Tillman on Jones. A true shutdown force, Norman held T.Y. Hilton to 15 scoreless yards on seven targets in Week 8, while Donte Moncrief managed 2-18-0 against Tillman. Adams and Jones are WR4s this week. Jones' weekly target totals with Adams healthy are 4, 3, and 2. ... Richard Rodgers' targets are concerning at 3, 4, and 4 with Adams in the lineup, but his matchup is better on paper against a Carolina defense that allowed 9-156 to Seahawks TEs in Week 6, 7-75 to Eagles TEs in Week 7, and 8-47-1 to Colts TEs in Week 8. You could do worse than Rodgers as a TE1 streamer.
The Panthers host Green Bay as 2.5-point underdogs with a team total below 22. I like the under on this game and both teams to fail to hit their totals. ... Cam Newton has faced DC Dom Capers' Packers defense twice in his career, combining to complete 45-of-77 passes (58.4%) for 637 yards (8.27 YPA) and a 2:4 TD-to-INT ratio with seven sacks absorbed. Newton has had more success on the ground against Capers' units (7-41-0, 10-53-1). This year's Packers have held opposing quarterbacks to 149-of-255 passing (58.4%) for 1,865 yards (7.31 YPA), seven touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Green Bay ranks fourth in the league in sacks (23) and fifth in picks. The data we have suggests Cam owners should expect a solid-not-spectacular return from their Week 9 QB1. Newton has earned an every-week spot in fantasy lineups by ranking sixth among quarterbacks in per-game scoring. ... Green Bay has been up and down and ultimately poor in run defense, overall ranking 25th in Football Outsiders' DVOA after getting shelled for 33-161-3 (4.88 YPC) by previously-struggling C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in Week 8. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart has looked rejuvenated since Carolina's Week 5 bye on touch totals of 21, 24, and 25. Stewart is a high-end RB2 play in this matchup.
Cam's target distribution since the bye: Greg Olsen 28; Ted Ginn 22; Corey Brown 13; Devin Funchess 9; Jerricho Cotchery 8; Stewart 4; Tolbert 2. ... With S/CB Micah Hyde as the primary burn victim, the Packers have been flamed by Broncos tight ends (6-105) and Chargers tight ends (12-130-1) in each of their last two games. Olsen went 8-105 in last year's Carolina-Green Bay game and is a top-three TE1 play this week. ... The Panthers' four-way wideout committee will take on an otherwise stingy Packers secondary that is allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points in the league to enemy receivers. Ginn runs most of his routes at right corners, where Packers RCB Sam Shields suffered a shoulder injury in last Monday night's loss to the Broncos and did not return. Ginn would be the best dart throw in Carolina's wideout corps this week.
Score Prediction: Panthers 21, Packers 20
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Washington @ New England
Fresh following a ten-day layoff and averaging a league-high 35.6 points per game, the Pats host the Skins as whopping 14-point favorites in a game with a 52.5-point total. New England's team total is mouthwatering at over 33 points. ... Brady's weekly fantasy finishes through seven games are QB1, QB1, QB5, QB5, QB7, QB2, and QB4. He's the top quarterback play of the week against a Washington pass defense that ranks 22nd in DVOA and got lit up by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston for a combined 40-of-55 passing (72.7%), 550 yards (11.0 YPA), four touchdowns, and zero interceptions in its last two games. On the year, quarterbacks have a combined 11:3 TD-to-INT ratio against the Redskins, who rank 26th in sacks (13) and 24th in passer rating allowed (97.9). Top pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan will attempt to play after fracturing his hand before Washington's Week 8 bye. ... This game lays out nicely for Dion Lewis to put the Patriots up and for LeGarrette Blount to put the Skins away. Even in non-PPR leagues, Lewis has earned every-week RB1 recognition by averaging 13 touches for 95 yards per game and hitting pay dirt in 4-of-6 appearances. ... Washington's run defense has fallen apart over its last three games, hemorrhaging a combined 95-531-2 (5.59 YPC) rushing line to Bucs, Jets, and Falcons running backs. Expect a heavy dose of Blount in the second half. Blount is an upside RB2 play in non-PPR leagues and an appealing tournament play on DFS sites with multi-score potential.
Brady's targets since Brandon LaFell came off PUP two games ago: Rob Gronkowski 25; Julian Edelman 18; LaFell 15; Danny Amendola 10; Lewis 9; Scott Chandler 4. ... Playing heavy Cover 2 under first-year DC Joe Barry, Washington's zones will be exploitable by Gronk, who has scored a touchdown and/or hit 100 yards in 6-of-7 games. ... Coming off a bye, the Redskins should get back RCB Chris Culliver (knee) and LCB DeAngelo Hall (toe) after multi-week absences. Neither Culliver nor Hall is a shutdown corner, of course. Through seven games, Edelman is on pace for career highs in catches (119), yards (1,338), and touchdowns (14). Quick-footed Edelman will run most of his Week 9 routes at Hall, who is 32 years old and may lose quickness after battling toe and Achilles' injuries for the last 14 months. ... LaFell shook off rust from his embarrassing, five-drop 2015 debut to secure 4-of-7 targets for 47 yards in last Thursday night's stomping of Miami, logging 83% of the Patriots' snaps. LaFell will primarily match up with RCB Culliver, who struggled in his first three appearances and hasn't played since Week 4 due to a troublesome left knee injury. Culliver has looked noticeably slowed this season, with receivers frequently running by him. LaFell is an underrated WR3 play this week. ... With LaFell and Lewis back healthy, Amendola's playing time dipped to 46% against the Dolphins. Amendola has played more and fared well versus man-coverage defenses. The Redskins play almost all zone.
The Redskins' team total coming off their bye is just above 19 points in Foxboro. This is an opportunity to tee up the Patriots' fantasy D/ST against Kirk Cousins, who has nine turnovers through seven starts. ... Although Cousins figures to fire off a generous dose of pass attempts as Washington tries to keep pace with New England's high-octane offense, Cousins' TD-to-INT ratio in games above 40 attempts is 9:9 in his career and 3:4 this season. Cousins' projected volume increases the probability he'll commit turnovers and take sacks against a Patriots defense that ranks seventh in the league in interceptions (8) and second in sacks (26). It also gives Cousins some dart-throw appeal as a volume-based QB1 streamer, albeit with a concerning floor. New England's stingy pass defense is 10th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. Cousins has finished above the fantasy QB20 in just 2-of-7 weeks with one multi-touchdown game. Still, with DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed back healthy, I'll be streaming Cousins in a few spots this week. ... The Redskins' three-headed backfield will be restored with Chris Thompson returning from a back injury to dominate passing-game work behind the Matt Jones-Alfred Morris rotation. Especially in PPR, Thompson is the top fantasy bet of the group this week. Washington figures to be in negative game script for at least two full quarters, while New England has yielded nearly six catches per game to tailbacks. Thompson has six-plus grabs in three of his last four games.
New England does not offer an attractive matchup for any individual Redskins pass catcher, but I think we can project a lot of passing-game volume on Washington's side. Even though their pass defense is strong, the Pats' bulk stats in passing yards and passing TDs allowed are mid-pack because they put opponents in pass-heavy situations. New England is facing 39 pass attempts per game, eighth most in football. ... DeSean Jackson should be a near-full-time player in his first game back and offers upside as a WR3 play. D-Jax's receiving lines in Cousins' five 2014 starts were 5-117-1, 1-9-0, 5-157-1, 3-115-1, and 3-49-0. ... Pierre Garcon loses much of his already-limited ceiling with Jackson returning, but is still a viable WR3 in season-long leagues with six teams on Week 9 byes. Garcon's stats with Jackson playing in Cousins' starts last year were 11-138-1, 2-28-0, 2-23-0, 4-31-1, and 5-87-1. ... The Patriots have been tough on tight ends, containing Jason Witten (5-33-0), Dwayne Allen/Coby Fleener (6-43-0), Charles Clay (3-19-1), and Jordan Cameron (2-34-0) in recent games. Jordan Reed is a different animal as Cousins' most trusted weapon in a game where it's conceivable we see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Washington. Reed should be started with confidence. ... It remains to be seen how much rookie Jamison Crowder will be utilized with Washington's wideout and tight end corps back to full strength. Crowder has earned an every-week role at slot receiver, but his box-score production is down recently and his usage seem likelier than not to dip going forward.
Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Redskins 21
Tennessee @ New Orleans
Eight-point home favorites versus the 1-6 Titans, the Saints' team total is 28. ... Even after Drew Brees' seven-TD demolition of the Giants, the top fantasy option on New Orleans' side is Mark Ingram facing a Titans team that ranks 30th in run-defense DVOA. As Tennessee's offense is averaging nine points per game since Week 3, this is a contest the Saints should control by feeding Ingram. Sometimes-goal-line vulture Khiry Robinson is on I.R., while coach Sean Payton has been unable to incorporate C.J. Spiller consistently. Averaging 19 touches per game this year and 5.10 yards per carry over the last month, Ingram is an elite RB1 play in Week 9. Ingram averaged 25.7 touches in Khiry's six missed games last year. ... Spiller's usage should grow in Robinson's absence, but not to the extent that Spiller will be more than a dart-throw flex for the foreseeable future. Spiller's snap rates over his last three games are 22%, 21%, and 24%. He's hit double-digit touches in 1-of-7 appearances. ... With Brees clearly over his early-year arm injury, Payton expanded his playbook and added dimensions to New Orleans' offense against the G-Men. Brees threw 15 passes beyond ten yards and eight past 20 yards while establishing a season high in yards per attempt (10.2). Brees' TD-to-INT ratio since returning five weeks ago stands at 13:3 with a completion rate of 72.4%. While Brees is back to every-week QB1 status in season-long leagues, this is a spot to fade him in DFS. Keyed by resurgent ROLB Brian Orakpo, steady LOLB Derrick Morgan, underrated interior penetrator Jurrell Casey, and an overachieving secondary, the Titans are playing top-five pass defense per DVOA, and will get back top corner Perrish Cox (hamstring) this week. Projected game flow and matchup both point to an Ingram-focused game.
Brees' targets over his last five games: Brandin Cooks 43; Willie Snead 37; Ben Watson 35; Spiller 24; Marques Colston 22; Ingram 20; Josh Hill and Robinson 11; Brandon Coleman 5. ... Coming on after a slow start, Cooks has topped 80 yards in three of his last four games while drawing eight-plus targets in 6-of-8 appearances. Cooks has moved into the WR2 ranks and now faces a Titans team that served up 8-94-1 to DeAndre Hopkins and 4-74-1 to Nate Washington last week. ... Even with Colston's usage up, Snead logged an 87% snap rate in last Sunday's win over the Giants and is averaging nearly ten targets per game over the last month. Mostly a slot receiver, Snead will run a ton of Week 9 routes at Titans slot CB Coty Sensabaugh, who has Pro Football Focus' No. 107 coverage grade among 112 qualified cornerbacks since Week 1. The aforementioned Washington burned Sensabaugh for a 42-yard TD on a post route from the slot in Week 8. ... Colston's snap rate jumped from 30% in Week 7 to 69% in Week 8, though his big box score (8-114-1) looks like an outlier after Colston failed to hit 50 yards in 5-of-6 games entering the week. Whereas Cooks and Snead have steady, established roles, Colston would be a point-chasing fantasy play. ... Watson's stat lines are 3-36-1, 10-127-1, 4-59-0, and 9-147-1 over the last month. In the 4-59-0 game against Indianapolis, Watson was tackled twice at the one-yard line. Regression is coming for the Saints' 35-year-old tight end, but at the moment Watson is balling in a high-volume, high-percentage passing offense with increasingly aggressive quarterback play while consistently logging snap rates above 80%. Watson has earned TE1 treatment against a Titans defense surrendering the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends.
Having fired Ken Whisenhunt and replaced him with assistant head coach/TEs Mike Mularkey, the Titans visit the Superdome as eight-point dogs with a 20-point team total. Even against a weak Saints defense, expectations for Tennessee's offense should be low across the board for a team that can't pass protect and allegedly plans to install 4.82 plodder Antonio Andrews as a "workhorse." Andrews does have matchup-driven appeal versus a New Orleans run defense submitting 4.83 yards per carry to running backs, but Andrews also possesses a concerning floor as a two-down banger still likely to come off the field in favor of Dexter McCluster if the Titans fall behind. The Titans, indeed, are likely to fall behind in this game. McCluster is a better PPR play than Andrews this week. ... Sidelined since October 18 with an MCL injury, Marcus Mariota will return to face a Saints pass defense that ranks dead last in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric with a league-worst 20:4 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. I'd be more excited about Mariota were he playing with Kendall Wright (MCL) and Tennessee not leading the NFL in sacks allowed per game. Mariota does make some sense as a QB1 streamer and contrarian option in daily fantasy tournaments in a game where the Titans are likely to be in frequent catch-up mode.
Mariota's target distribution this year: Wright 31; Delanie Walker 29; Harry Douglas 23; Justin Hunter 16; Bishop Sankey and Anthony Fasano 14; McCluster and Dorial Green-Beckham 11. ... The lone trustworthy fantasy option on Tennessee's side is Walker taking on a New Orleans defense permitting the eighth most receptions and second most yards to tight ends. Walker has at least six catches in four of his last five games and should see an uptick in targets without Wright. A comeback-heavy game script could push Walker's target total into the double digits. Look for Walker to square off frequently with oft-burned CB Brandon Browner, whom the Saints regularly use in tight end coverage. ... Douglas figures to take over as the Titans' primary slot receiver in the absence of Wright. Although Douglas is painfully short on playmaking and touchdown-scoring ability, he should have an opportunity to compensate with volume in a plus draw with Saints fill-in slot CB Kyle Wilson, who will replace Damian Swann (concussion). Douglas is worth a look for PPR owners in extreme bye-week binds. ... Green-Beckham's playing time has continued to rise, but his target numbers the past two weeks (1, 2) suggest Titans coaches aren't comfortable designing plays to feed him. Green-Beckham's Week 9 matchup is also tougher than it appears versus stingy Saints perimeter CBs Delvin Breaux and Keenan Lewis. DGB's breakout will happen at some point. I'm just not betting it happens this week.
Score Prediction: Saints 27, Titans 20
Miami @ Buffalo
Humbled 36-7 in Foxboro last Thursday night, Dan Campbell's Dolphins will look to rebound in Buffalo as three-point road dogs with an underwhelming team total of 20.5 points. ... Perhaps the most disappointing area of Rex Ryan's 2015 defense has been on the ground, where the Bills rank 24th in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA while getting gashed by T.J. Yeldon (20-115-1) and Jeremy Hill/Giovani Bernard (24-106-1) in their last two games. Lamar Miller pummeled Ryan's Jets defense in last year's two meetings with Miami, combining for 234 yards and two touchdowns on 32 runs (7.31 YPC). Miller is averaging 6.97 yards per carry over his last three meetings with Rex. Logging 17.3 touches a game since Campbell took over, Miller is at worst a mid-range RB2 at The Ralph. ... Whereas Buffalo is playing sub-par run defense, Ryan's unit has been more stout in the air. The Bills rank top 12 in pass-defense DVOA with an 82.9 QB rating against, the NFL's seventh stingiest clip. Especially after the Dolphins lost RT Ja'Wuan James to a multi-week toe injury, Ryan Tannehill's pass protection is a major concern against LE Mario Williams and RE Jerry Hughes. Tannehill has struggled in each of his last three meetings with Ryan's defense, completing 74-of-123 throws (60.2%) for 791 yards (6.43 YPA) with a 3:4 TD-to-INT ratio and 12 sacks absorbed. Tannehill's fantasy finishes in those weeks were QB16, QB26, and QB16. Tannehill is just a two-quarterback-league option this week.
Tannehill's target distribution since Miami's Week 5 bye: Rishard Matthews 21; Jarvis Landry 17; Jordan Cameron 15; Miller 11; Kenny Stills 9; Dion Sims 7; Greg Jennings 3. ... Matthews has cleared 60 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 6-of-7 games. His Week 9 matchup is difficult, however, against Bills perimeter CBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, both of whom sport top-20 coverage grades at PFF. Albeit driven by garbage time, Matthews did find success against Gilmore and Darby in Week 3, dropping a 6-113-2 number on the Bills, including a 46-yard TD in Gilmore's coverage. Very clearly the Fins' top outside receiver, Matthews has earned every-week WR3 treatment in season-long leagues. ... Buffalo's weakest cornerback has been slot CB Nickell Robey, against whom Landry will run most of his routes. Landry caught eight balls in the Week 3 game and is a high-floor WR2 play in PPR. ... Cameron managed 3-16-0 on eight targets against Buffalo earlier this season and has been wildly inefficient all year, securing just 19-of-42 targets for 257 yards and one touchdown. After he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury in practice this week, Cameron should probably be written off against a Bills team that ranks 19th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. ... Stills' snap rates are up to 76% and 82% over his last two games, drawing target totals of 0 and 7. Likely to do most of his Week 9 route running at Gilmore, Stills is a low-end WR4.
The Bills come off their bye at near-full strength while sporting a 23.5-point team total versus Miami. ... Tyrod Taylor will return from his MCL injury after sitting out since Week 5. He is the overall QB4 in fantasy points per game. Not only did Taylor drop 289 total yards and three TDs on the Dolphins in Week 3, he gets them this time around without LE Cameron Wake (Achilles'), who leads Miami in sacks (7) and forced fumbles (4). Taylor should be reinserted into fantasy lineups as a QB1. ... Although Karlos Williams (concussion) is back to siphon change-up work, LeSean McCoy is entrenched as the Bills' lead runner after shaking off a recurring early-season hamstring injury to parlay touch totals of 19 and 20 into 198 yards and a touchdown in Weeks 6-7, ahead of Buffalo's Week 8 bye. McCoy's trademark burst and lateral movement returned in those games against Cincinnati and Jacksonville, combining to average over 4.5 yards per carry. The now-Wake-less Dolphins are permitting the 11th most fantasy points to running backs. This is not quite a cupcake matchup, but game flow should allow for McCoy to amass a high number of touches, while Taylor's return improves the outlook for Buffalo's offense as a whole.
Taylor's target distribution in Weeks 1-5: Charles Clay 32; Percy Harvin 30; Robert Woods 17; Sammy Watkins and Chris Hogan 13; McCoy 11; Karlos Williams 7. ... Notable tight end lines permitted by Miami: 7-63-1 (Jordan Reed), 5-82-1 (Clay himself), 8-97 (Delanie Walker), 6-113-1 (Rob Gronkowski). Clay's matchup is not a concern; his target volume with Buffalo's skill players all back healthy is. Clay is best approached as a fringe TE1 with a limited ceiling. ... Watkins has made it through only two games this year; Week 1 against Vontae Davis (0-0 on 3 targets) and Week 2 versus the Patriots (6-60-1 on 8 targets). Until Watkins demonstrates some semblance of consistent health and production, he should be viewed as a boom-bust WR3/flex. ... With Percy Harvin (hip, knee) out indefinitely, Buffalo's Week 9 three-receiver set will have Watkins at X receiver, Woods at Z, and Hogan in the slot. Droppable in 14-team leagues, Woods and Hogan will revert to role-player usage fighting for scraps behind McCoy, Clay, and Watkins.
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Dolphins 20
St. Louis @ Minnesota
In a battle of teams coached by defensive minds with run-first offenses, Rams-Vikings has Week 9's lowest Vegas total at 39.5 points. Minnesota is a two-point favorite, giving Mike Zimmer's club a team total of just under 21. ... The Rams have not allowed a rushing TD since Week 3, and over their last five games have held enemy running backs to 275 yards on 91 carries (3.02 YPC). While this is an imposing matchup on paper for Adrian Peterson, game script should still allow for A.P. to log RB1-caliber volume in a game where St. Louis will probably stay close, but seems unlikely to build a big lead. ... Teddy Bridgewater struggled mightily in last week's narrow win over Chicago, incessantly missing open receivers and often appearing physically overwhelmed against one of the league's worst pass defenses. Most blatantly, Bridgewater overthrew wide-open Mike Wallace for a would-be 50-yard touchdown bomb. Unlike the Bears, the Rams play shutdown pass defense, ranking No. 4 in Football Outsiders' DVOA, first in touchdown passes allowed (5), and tied for second in sacks (26). Bridgewater is a very low-end QB2 this week.
Bridgewater's target distribution over the last month: Stefon Diggs 40; Mike Wallace 28; Kyle Rudolph 13; A.P. 12; Jarius Wright 11; Adam Thielen 10; Charles Johnson 3. ... In chronological order, Diggs' snap rates across the Vikings' last four games are 56%, 82%, 80%, and 85% with target counts of 10, 9, 9, and 12. Diggs has earned every-week WR2 recognition in season-long leagues, but this is a week to fade him in DFS against stingy Rams RCB Janoris Jenkins, who has come into his own in a contract year. Jenkins has allowed just five catches for 28 yards on 12 targets over his last three games and has been beaten for one touchdown pass all season. ... Wallace goose egged in last week's win over the Bears and has hit 50 yards once over the past month and a half. As Johnson has stepped up for clutch catches of 21 and 35 yards in each of the last two weeks, it wouldn't surprise if Wallace began losing snaps to Johnson in two-receiver sets. ... The Rams have shown vulnerability to tight ends since losing second-level coverage-maven WLB Alec Ogletree two games ago, permitting a combined 8-111 stat line to Browns TEs in Week 7 and seven catches to 49ers TEs in Week 8. Rudolph's frequent blocking usage severely curbs his fantasy ceiling, but he's worth a look as a touchdown-dependent Week 9 streamer for owners desperate at tight end. Rudolph can still be expected to spend most of this game on the line of scrimmage, helping the Vikings' tackles block St. Louis' edge rushers.
Winner of two straight and three of its last four, St. Louis treks to Minnesota as a two-point underdog with a team total under 19 points. The good news for the Rams is the way they play offense matches up well with the Vikings' defensive weaknesses. Still missing difference-making DT Sharrif Floyd (foot), Minnesota allows 4.42 YPC to enemy backs and ranks 26th in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. Averaging over 24 touches across his last four games while leading the NFL in yards per carry (6.12), Todd Gurley has settled in as a top-three fantasy running back play every week. ... Nick Foles has now gone six consecutive games without hitting 200 passing yards and has one multi-touchdown performance amongst seven. A game manager in the truest sense of the term, Foles is a bottom-barrel two-quarterback-league option each week. Minnesota has permitted the seventh fewest passing touchdowns in football (9).
Foles' target distribution since St. Louis' Week 6 bye: Tavon Austin 14; Gurley 8; Jared Cook 7; Stedman Bailey and Kenny Britt 4; Benny Cunningham, Brian Quick, and Lance Kendricks 2. ... Gadget-player Austin's weekly floor remains a concern, but he's shown signs of consistency with an average of 6.5 targets and two-plus rushing attempts over his last four games. Austin's usage prevents him from facing big-time corners, while OC Frank Cignetti is feeding him in space and the red zone. Austin is a boom-bust WR3/flex at Minnesota. ... After a mistake-filled Week 7 game, Cook's snap rate dipped to 55% in last week's win over the 49ers. He's barely a TE2 at this point. ... Britt, Bailey, and Quick have settled in as rotating complementary wideouts in St. Louis' low-volume passing attack. Britt played 59% of the snaps against San Francisco, dropped a perfectly thrown deep fade from Foles, and now has one catch over his last four games. Bailey logged a 55% playing-time clip, goose egging for the third time this year. Quick played 51% of the Rams' Week 8 downs and has caught 2-of-5 targets for 15 yards in four appearances.
Score Prediction: Rams 20, Vikings 17
Jacksonville @ NY Jets
Jacksonville returns from its bye as a 7.5-point road dog at the Jets. In a game with a 42.5-point Vegas total -- second lowest of the week -- the Jaguars' team total is 17.5. Owners of Jags players should be less concerned with last week's Raiders box scores against New York, and more worried that this is an obvious rebound spot for Todd Bowles' team back home after a painful road loss. ... Although the Jets showed vulnerability against Latavius Murray (20-113) in The Black Hole, there is a much bigger season-long sample suggesting T.J. Yeldon will struggle in this matchup. Gang Green has held enemy RBs to 3.32 yards per carry, one rushing touchdown, and the fewest fantasy points in the league through seven games. Volume keeps Yeldon in the RB2 conversation -- he's averaging 19.5 touches per game -- but there are reasons to believe he's a Week 9 trap. ... Prior to getting lit up by Derek Carr, the Jets had held opposing passers to a combined 8:8 TD-to-INT ratio and the second lowest QB rating in football. Including Carr's performance, the Jets still have a top-seven pass defense per Football Outsiders' DVOA. Bowles' unit can contain top weapon Allen Robinson with Darrelle Revis, while Blake Bortles will likely face lots of long-yardage situations on obvious passing downs. Perhaps I'm being overly stubborn, but I personally would rather tee up the Jets' fantasy D/ST than Bortles this week.
Bortles' target distribution since Julius Thomas returned from injury three games ago: Robinson 30; Allen Hurns 21; Thomas 20; Bryan Walters 17; Yeldon 9. ... Wideouts shadowed by Revis this year include Amari Cooper (5-46-0), Julian Edelman (5-54-0), Pierre Garcon (5-28-1), Jarvis Landry (4-40-0), and T.Y. Hilton (4-45-0). I'll be starting Robinson in season-long leagues where I own him this week. I'll also be holding my breath. ... Bowles' high-blitz-percentage defense is schematically vulnerable to tight ends, while Thomas got in valuable practice time with Bortles during the Week 8 bye. Orange Julius is a quality if low-end TE1 play this week. ... If Revis does follow A-Rob around the formation, Hurns will become the Jaguars' best bet for wideout production. Michael Crabtree and Andre Holmes both flamed Antonio Cromartie for long touchdowns last week. Complementary receiver stats against the Jets include 7-102-1 (Crabtree), 8-86-1 (Danny Amendola), 4-40 (Jamison Crowder), 7-122-1 (Donte Moncrief), and 5-81-1 (Kenny Stills). Hurns has hit pay dirt in five straight games and is an every-week WR3.
Poised to rebound from last week's Black Hole letdown, the Jets have a rock-solid Week 9 team total of 25 points. ... With Ryan Fitzpatrick nursing torn ligaments on his non-throwing thumb that hinder his ability to take snaps from center, the Jets figure to spend most of this game in the shotgun. Fitzpatrick did briefly return after exiting last week's loss, firing a 25-yard dart to Jeremy Kerley. Concerns over the injury figure to cause FitzMagic to go extremely low owned on DFS sites in a plum matchup. The Jags rank 28th in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA, and have allowed Jameis Winston, Matt Hasselbeck, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hoyer, and E.J. Manuel to combine for an 11:2 TD-to-INT ratio over their last six games. In season-long leagues, Fitzpatrick is an underrated streamer against a Jacksonville defense permitting an AFC-high 29.6 points per game. ... The Jaguars are stronger in run defense, but were far from a shutdown unit in three games before their bye. They ceded 341 yards and two TDs on 82 carries (4.16 YPC) to Bucs, Texans, and Bills running backs in Weeks 5-7. While the Jets will likely come out throwing against Jacksonville, game script should work in Ivory's favor, particularly in the second half with Gang Green favored by over a touchdown at home. The return of C Nick Mangold from a neck injury provides a significant boost to Ivory's outlook.
Fitzpatrick's target distribution in Eric Decker's six appearances: Brandon Marshall 47; Decker 38; Chris Owusu 13; Bilal Powell 11; Ivory 10; Devin Smith 8; Kerley 6. ... Marshall's toe and ankle injuries may be concerns for his effectiveness, but he's a difficult fade against a Jags defense that's reeling at cornerback, and has given up receiving lines of 10-148-2 (DeAndre Hopkins) and 9-84-1 (Robert Woods) in its last two games. $25 million offseason signing Davon House was demoted before the Week 8 bye, while all of Jaguars' boundary corners have negative PFF grades. ... Jacksonville's best cover man is slot CB Aaron Colvin, who will spend most of Week 9 on Decker. Decker has earned every-week WR2 treatment in season-long leagues by scoring a touchdown and/or topping 90 yards in each of his six games, but the time looks right to be off him in DFS. That would change on the off chance Marshall doesn't play.
Score Prediction: Jets 23, Jaguars 17
Oakland @ Pittsburgh
Pitting against each other two teams that stop the run but are less effective at defending the pass, Raiders-Steelers offers high-scoring potential with a Vegas total of 48. Pittsburgh is a 4.5-point favorite with a team total above 26. ... Coming off a home upset of the Jets and now traveling cross country, Oakland looks primed for a Week 9 letdown. Particularly after losing Le'Veon Bell (MCL surgery) for the season, the best way for the Steelers to attack the Raiders will be through the air. Oakland has allowed multiple touchdowns to the opposing quarterback in 6-of-7 games and 250-plus passing yards in all seven while ranking 21st in the league in sacks (14). Especially after he burned many daily fantasy players last week, this is a great time to invest into Ben Roethlisberger as a DFS tournament play. ... The Raiders' run defense is no joke, holding enemy backs to 3.56 yards per carry and ranking top five in DVOA. DeAngelo Williams' projected workload still keeps him in play as a confident RB2. With Bell suspended in Weeks 1-2, Williams logged snap rates of 84% and 93% with touch totals of 22 and 24. As a true every-down back in a high-powered offense, Williams should be started everywhere this week.
Big Ben's target distribution in his first game back: Heath Miller 13; Antonio Brown 11; Martavis Bryant 9; Williams 4; Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey 2. ... Miller spent more time running routes than blocking for the first time since Week 3 in Roethlisberger's return against the Bengals, and gets a favorable Week 9 draw against a Raiders defense permitting the NFL's most fantasy points to tight ends. On waivers in many leagues, Miller is a sensible streamer this week. ... Brown's stat lines are 9-133-1, 9-195-1, 11-108, and 6-47-1 in Big Ben's four starts this year. He's a virtual lock to torture the Raiders' overmatched secondary. ... Martavis' snap rate was a career-high 82% in last Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. He shouldn't struggle to create cavities of separation versus burnable Raiders outside CBs David Amerson and Neiko Thorpe. This is an opportunity to multi-stack Roethlisberger with both Brown and Bryant in DFS.
Coming off consecutive upset wins over the Chargers and Jets, the Raiders head to Heinz Field as 4.5-point dogs with a team total just below 22 points. ... Showing all the symptoms of a true franchise quarterback, Derek Carr has a 15:3 TD-to-INT ratio and 289-yard average over his last six games. He flashed matchup-proof ability by spraying the normally impenetrable Jets with four touchdown passes last week. Carr's floor is supported by consistent volume -- he has 30-plus attempts in each of his non-injury-shortened starts -- while his Week 9 ceiling is raised by this game's shootout potential. Concerns include a potential road-game letdown and Oakland's low team total. ... Whereas the Steelers rank 13th in pass-defense DVOA, they're sixth against the run and are holding opposing RBs to 3.79 yards per carry with one rushing TD allowed through eight weeks. Particularly in a game where Oakland projects to trail, this has the looks of a tough spot for Latavius Murray. The best news for Latavius' fantasy owners is that he has piled up 37 touches in two games since Oakland's Week 6 bye and is always capable of breaking long runs with 4.38 speed at 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds. While this probably isn't a great spot to use Latavius in DFS, he should stay entrenched in season-long lineups as an every-week RB2.
Carr's target distribution since the Raiders' bye week: Michael Crabtree 20; Amari Cooper 15; Marcel Reece 6; Clive Walford 5; Andre Holmes and Taiwan Jones 4; Murray, Mychal Rivera, and Seth Roberts 3. ... This is a plum spot for both Crabtree and Cooper. The Steelers have allowed the third most receptions and eighth most yards in the league to opposing wide receivers. Getting little from their tight ends, the Raiders' top-two wideouts have high-floor and high-upside weekly roles. Cooper is the No. 20 fantasy wideout in per-game PPR scoring this season, while Crabtree is No. 23 over the last month and a half. Crabtree has commanded 26% of the Raiders' passing-game targets on the year, while Cooper is at 23%. No other Oakland pass catcher is above 9%. We know where the ball is going to go in the Raiders' passing offense.
DFS Players: Raiders at Steelers is the RotoGrinders Matchup of the Week. Some of RotoGrinders' top NFL minds break down this game from every angle and help prepare you to set winning lineups this weekend in daily fantasy football.
Score Prediction: Steelers 27, Raiders 24
4:05PM ET Games
NY Giants @ Tampa Bay
Giants-Bucs has a Vegas total of 47.5 with visiting New York favored by 2.5. The G-Men have a robust team total of 25 points. ... Coming off a six-touchdown outburst at the Superdome, look for Eli Manning to stay hot in another gorgeous draw. The Buccaneers' defense has yielded a top-ten fantasy quarterback performance in three straight games, including top-three efforts by Blake Bortles (QB3) and Kirk Cousins (QB1). Tampa Bay's TD-to-INT ratio against is 17:4 on the year, and their combined passer rating allowed (111.5) is the highest in football despite having faced one of the NFL's easiest quarterback schedules. The Bucs offer an ideal matchup for opposing signal callers because they stop the run but can't stop the pass, funneling stats into the air. Manning nearly equaled Drew Brees' seven touchdown passes last week, only to narrowly miss Dwayne Harris after he beat Saints CB Damian Swann on a deep slot route. ... Holding running backs to 3.84 yards per carry, the Bucs rank No. 8 in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. As the Giants' backfield has devolved into a four-way timeshare, no New York back is a trustworthy fantasy start. Shane Vereen is always capable of big PPR games, but he's logged ten touches or fewer in 6-of-8 weeks. Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams have lost playing time recently due to ineffectiveness, while Week 7 star Orleans Darkwa suffered a painful tailbone injury in last Sunday's loss and has a wholly uncertain Week 9 role.
Eli's target distribution over the last month and a half: Odell Beckham 55; Rueben Randle 39; Larry Donnell 31; Dwayne Harris 28; Vereen 27; Jennings 15. ... Notable receiving lines allowed by the Bucs in their last five games: 12-162-1 (Julio Jones), 5-116-1 (Allen Hurns), 7-72-2 (Allen Robinson), 8-101-1 (DeAndre Hopkins). Beckham shouldn't struggle to steamroll Tampa Bay's barely-there cornerback corps. With Randle banged up and Donnell out, I believe Beckham is worth paying up for in DFS cash games this week. ... Beckham will spend most of this game lined up versus LCB Mike Jenkins, who's earned a positive PFF coverage grade in just one week this year. Randle will run patterns at RCB Johnthan Banks, who has been similarly ineffective. The concern on Randle is less his matchup and more his troublesome hamstring, which Randle admitted still nagged him in last Sunday's loss to the Saints. With just 2-of-8 games above 55 yards, Randle is a low-upside, low-floor WR3 option. ... Due to Randle and Donnell's injuries, Harris is a sneaky bye-week fill in against Tampa Bay. Harris is averaging 5.4 targets per game the past five weeks and has three touchdowns during that span. If Eli is going to have another big game -- and I suspect he will -- there's a good chance Harris will be involved. Harris will run most of his pass routes at Bucs slot CB Alterraun Verner, PFF's No. 104 corner out of 113.
Hosting the G-Men as 2.5-point dogs, the Bucs' team total is 22.5 points. ... Jameis Winston is worth streamer discussion against a Giants defense that got flamed for seven TD passes by Brees last Sunday. Dead last in the NFL in sacks (9), DC Steve Spagnuolo's unit provides enemy quarterbacks with clean pockets. Over his last ten quarters, Winston has completed 41-of-59 passes (69.5%) for 616 yards (10.4 YPC) with five all-purpose touchdowns. Winston's outlook will diminish, however, if Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) is inactive for another week, and the Giants get back RCB Prince Amukamara (pectoral) and RE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand). These are situations to monitor for prospective Winston streamers. ... Another threat to Winston's Week 9 ceiling is a potential shortage of passing volume; the Bucs are committed to their rushing attack and have held Winston under 30 attempts in three straight games. The Giants' run defense has fallen apart after a strong start, coughing up 554 yards and three TDs on 116 carries (4.78 YPC) to opposing running backs over the last month. Doug Martin has logged at least 22 touches in five of his last six games and should be a high-floor play in this matchup.
Even after his disappointing Week 8 outing in Atlanta (3-48-0 on 9 targets), I plan to transition a lot of DFS action onto Mike Evans if Seferian-Jenkins is in, and Amukamara and Pierre-Paul are out. Evans remains underpriced for his talent level and role, and he will get a ton of chances against Giants turnstile RCB Jayron Hosley if Amukamara does not play. As of Thursday, signs were pointing toward Amukamara missing one more game. The G-Men have not used LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in shadow coverage this season, while Hosley stands 5'10/178 to Evans' 6'5/231. Hosley gave up touchdown passes to Marques Colston (LOL) and Willie Snead last week. ... Vincent Jackson's (knee) continued inactivity will give UDFA Donteea Dye another start. Dye logged a 72% snap rate in last Sunday's upset of the Falcons, but managed four yards on three targets with a drop. Look elsewhere for sleepers. ... Seferian-Jenkins' status seems likely to come down to a game-time decision. His matchup would be beautiful against a Giants defense permitting the second most fantasy points to tight ends, but I struggle to trust oft-injured ASJ whenever he's less than 100%. He should be viewed as a boom-bust TE1 option.
Score Prediction: Giants 27, Bucs 23
Atlanta @ San Francisco
Stunned at home by the Bucs in Week 8, the Falcons head to San Francisco as seven-point road favorites in a game with a 44.5-point Vegas total. Atlanta's team total is nearly 26. ... Perhaps this is a small-sample trend that is destined for change, but it's still worth noting that the 49ers' defense has been far more effective at home than on the road. Whereas DC Eric Mangini's unit has allowed nearly a 37-point average through four away games, it has yet to surrender more than 20 in any of its four home affairs. Based on to-date data, this is a tougher matchup than it appears for Falcons players. ... Enemy road quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson have combined to go 96-of-141 passing for 1,033 yards (7.33 YPA) with a 4:5 TD-to-INT ratio and 13 sacks taken against the 49ers. By ranking 20th among QBs in per-game fantasy scoring, Matt Ryan has failed to earn QB1 treatment beyond the finest of matchups. ... Still fantasy's top-ranked running back, Devonta Freeman has logged touch totals of 34, 21, 27, and 27 over the last month. The Niners have shown more leakiness in run defense at home, yielding an 18-90 rushing line to otherwise struggling Eddie Lacy in Week 5 and 33-154-1 combined to Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls on Week 7 Thursday Night Football. Freeman figures to remain Atlanta's most consistent means of chain movement this week.
Ryan's Weeks 1-8 target distribution: Julio Jones 102; Freeman 52; Jacob Tamme 43; Leonard Hankerson 39; Roddy White 28. ... In the five weeks where he hasn't been hindered by injury, Julio has averaged 11 catches for 139 yards per game with six TDs. With RCB Kenneth Acker (concussion) expected to be inactive, Julio will be running routes at 49ers backup cornerbacks this week. Get some. ... Tamme went 8-94 when Hankerson missed much of the Falcons' Week 5 win over the Redskins, and 10-103-1 when Hankerson was inactive in last week's loss to Tampa Bay. OC Kyle Shanahan calls far more plays for Tamme than White, who was targeted only three times despite an 80% snap rate against the Bucs. As the Falcons are likely to hold out Hankerson (hamstring) through their Week 10 bye, Tamme is a strong Week 9 streamer. ... Rookie Justin Hardy got his first offensive action of the season versus Tampa Bay. Manning the slot, Hardy played 65% of the snaps and saw four targets, catching two for 21 yards.
We can make quick work of the 49ers' offense in this space. Throwing in the towel eight games in, the Niners benched Colin Kaepernick for epic draft bust Blaine Gabbert and traded Vernon Davis for late-round picks, while Anquan Boldin (hamstring) and Carlos Hyde (foot) are battling injuries. Reggie Bush tore his MCL in last week's loss to St. Louis and is done for the year. San Francisco's interior offensive line is getting manhandled on a weekly basis, preventing the team from generating any sort of rushing attack. With Bush on I.R., Hyde not due back until after the Week 10 bye, and rookie Mike Davis (hand surgery) out indefinitely, the 49ers will apparently resort to a three-way RBBC comprised of street free agents Pierre Thomas, Shaun Draughn, and Kendall Gaskins. ... Dating back to college, Gabbert has been terrified in the pocket with wildly erratic accuracy caused by technique breakdowns because he plays so scared. In Jacksonville, offensive linemen refused to block for Gabbert because they had so little respect for him. Even at the low level Kap was playing, there's little doubt Gabbert gives the 49ers a lesser chance to win. Gabbert's career statistics are utterly pathetic: 53.2% completions with a 5.6 YPA.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, 49ers 10
4:25PM ET Game
Denver @ Indianapolis
Denver-Indy has a 45-point total with the visiting Broncos favored by five. Denver's team total is 25. ... Fresh off their finest offensive performance all season, the 7-0 Broncos will host a Colts team returning home after a road loss in Carolina, but playing on a short week amid front office and coaching staff turmoil. Peyton Manning flamed Green Bay's stout pass defense on crossing routes in last Sunday night's win while showing improved vertical timing with Demaryius Thomas and seemingly fixing prior pass-protection woes. There is a #RevengeNarrative in play as Manning returns to Indy for just the second time since the Colts cut him following the 2011 season. All told, Peyton has faced Chuck Pagano's defense three times as a Bronco, going 77-of-131 passing (58.8%) for 866 yards (6.61 YPA) with a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio. The historical stats may not be as relevant in light of his overall 2015 play, but last week's effort suggests Peyton is worth a look as a QB1 streamer with six teams on byes. ... Over their last three games, the Colts have yielded 386 yards and five TDs on 77 carries (5.01 YPC) to Panthers, Patriots, and Saints running backs. Less of an obstacle than the matchup for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman is their Week 9 usage, which seems likely to remain evenly distributed after Anderson (14-101-1) outplayed Hillman (19-60-2) against the Packers. Both Anderson and Hillman are risky flex options at Indianapolis, but offer upside in a plus draw with Denver's offense finally showing signs of life.
Peyton's target distribution coming off Denver's Week 7 bye: Demaryius Thomas 11; Emmanuel Sanders 5; Owen Daniels and Virgil Green 3; Hillman and Andre Caldwell 2; Anderson 1. ... Trade acquisition Vernon Davis is expected to be active against the Colts, but his playing time and usage are unclear. Until Davis gets up to speed with Manning and formally shows himself to be a full-time player, he'll be a low-floor TE2. Davis should eventually ascend to TE1 value and is worth owning in most season-long leagues. ... The Colts have not used top CB Vontae Davis in shadow coverage since LCB Greg Toler returned from a neck injury in Week 5. Based on where he usually lines up in the formation, Demaryius will run the most routes at Davis in Denver's pass-catcher corps. Thomas does work enough in the slot and on the other side that he remains a season-long WR1 play at Indianapolis. Demaryius has caught seven-plus passes in all but one game this year, clearing 90 yards in all but two. ... Sanders runs most of his patterns at left corners and will mainly take on Toler, giving Sanders the best matchup among Broncos wideouts. Denver and Indy played twice last year, in Week 1 and the playoffs. Thomas' receiving lines were 4-48-0 and 5-59-1 in those games, while Sanders went 6-77-0 and 7-46-0.
After scapegoating OC Pep Hamilton in favor of Chuck Pagano pal Rob Chudzinski this week, the dysfunctional Colts host Denver as five-point dogs with a team total of 20. As Pep's playcalling was not even remotely the problem for Indianapolis, I'd be pretending if I said big changes for the positive should be expected under Chud. ... Although Andrew Luck has generated top-four QB1 numbers over the past three weeks combined, he has consistently failed to move Indy's offense until the second halves of games against softer defenses in lead-nursing mode. Luck has also not faced any defenses as fearsome as Denver's, which leads the NFL in sacks (29), ranks No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, and has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in football (5). The Broncos held Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards last Sunday, and only 46 if you include negative sack yardage. Rodgers attempted exactly zero passes to his first read, because his first read never got open. Especially with T.Y. Hilton's (foot) availability in doubt, I'd be hard pressed to rank Luck as a top-15 fantasy quarterback for Week 9. As Luck has committed 13 turnovers through six starts, Denver's D/ST should continue to be fired up confidently. ... The outlook is similarly bleak for Frank Gore taking on a Broncos team holding enemy running backs to 3.48 yards per carry while ranking ninth in run-defense DVOA. Handling over 17 touches per game, Gore's weekly workloads are bankable enough that he still warrants RB2/flex treatment in season-long leagues, but Gore's ceiling is concerningly low in this brutal matchup. ... Ahmad Bradshaw's touch counts are 5, 2, and 7 since rejoining the Colts three games ago, on snap rates of 24%, 46%, and 33%. He has not yet carved out flex appeal in 14-team leagues.
Luck's targets since he returned from injury three games ago: Hilton 31; Donte Moncrief 24; Coby Fleener 22; Andre Johnson 18; Gore 14; Griff Whalen 8; Dwayne Allen 7; Bradshaw 4. ... Having allowed one touchdown pass to opposing receivers through seven games, the Broncos present the worst possible matchup for Hilton and Moncrief. Hilton's stat lines were 4-72-0 and 5-41-0 in last year's two Denver-Indy games. After Hilton repeatedly got behind Aqib Talib in January's playoff matchup, I suspect we'll see Hilton shadowed by Chris Harris, who has Pro Football Focus' No. 3 overall cornerback grade. If Hilton does not play, look for Whalen to take over as the Colts' third receiver behind Moncrief and Johnson. ... Moncrief and Johnson will most likely deal with LCB Talib and RCB Bradley Roby's coverage. Both Talib and Roby are top-27 cover men among 113 qualified cornerbacks, according to PFF's charting. If new OC Chudzinski is smart, he'll find ways to involve more two-tight end sets at the expense of sluggish slot receiver Johnson's playing time. The two go way back, of course; Chud was Johnson's offensive coordinator at The U in the early 2000s. Andre probably isn't going anywhere. ... Chudzinski's specific background is with tight ends; he was the position coach for Jeremy Shockey at Miami, Kellen Winslow in Cleveland, and Antonio Gates in San Diego. Fleener recently took over as the Colts' primary tight end under Hamilton, but Chudzinski may have different plans. We'll know more after Sunday's game. The Colts will badly need Allen's superior blocking on the field versus DeMarcus Ware (5.5 sacks), Von Miller (4 sacks), Shaq Barrett (3.5), and Malik Jackson (3.5).
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Colts 20
Sunday Night Football
Philadelphia @ Dallas
The Vegas total on Eagles-Cowboys is 44 points with visiting Philadelphia favored by 2.5. The Eagles' team total is a tick above 23 points. ... The best way to attack Dallas is on the ground, where DC Rod Marinelli's unit has yielded 569 yards and five TDs on 120 carries (4.74 YPC) to enemy RBs over its last five games. The Eagles are coming off a bye wherein their offensive line got rest and Chip Kelly had an opportunity to address his up-and-down running game. Before the open date, DeMarco Murray was fed touch totals of 27, 24, and 20 in Weeks 5-7. Murray is a solid RB2 in his old stomping grounds. ... Although Ryan Mathews has outplayed Murray all year, his pre-bye touch counts were 11, 10, and 9. Kelly might argue Mathews is more effective on smaller workloads, which also reduce his injury risk. On such low usage, however, Mathews is merely a boom-bust flex option with increased bust risk after he missed practice time with a groin injury this week. ... Sproles' workloads were 6, 3, and 8 in Weeks 5-7. He is an RB4 in PPR and waiver fodder in non-PPR. ... A massive fantasy bust, Sam Bradford ranks 28th in per-game quarterback scoring behind the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Kirk Cousins. With Cowboys RE Greg Hardy sure to be breathing down his neck, Bradford is hard to take seriously as more than a low-end two-QB-league option considering his to-date play in what projects as a low-scoring affair. Bradford committed three turnovers with one touchdown pass when Philly played Dallas in Week 2, and that was before Hardy came off suspension. Further worsening Bradford's outlook is the expected absence of Eagles All-Pro LT Jason Peters, who would have blocked Hardy. Usual RT Lane Johnson is poised to make his first career start at left tackle this week.
Bradford's target distribution this year: Jordan Matthews 63; Zach Ertz 42; Sproles 36; Murray 28; Riley Cooper 23; Miles Austin 21; Josh Huff 19; Nelson Agholor 17; Ryan Mathews 15. ... Plagued by drops and mental errors, Matthews' confidence seemed shot before the bye. He logged season lows in snap rate (69%), targets (7), and yards (14) at Carolina in Week 7 while dropping two more balls. Owners in bye-week crunches in need of WR3 help can note that J-Matt dumped a 6-80-1 number on Dallas in Week 2. Trusting J-Matt still requires a leap of faith. ... Scoreless on the season, Ertz managed a 3-17 receiving line in the Week 2 meeting and has cleared 50 yards just twice in seven games. He's a fairly underwhelming streamer versus a Dallas defense allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... With Agholor back from his high ankle sprain, the Eagles figure to resume utilizing him with Cooper, Huff, and Austin in a four-way committee on the perimeter. Unless Bradford starts playing better and one of the foursome emerges down the stretch, this will remain a fantasy situation to avoid.
As 2.5-point home dogs against the Eagles, the Cowboys' Week 9 team total is just below 21. It's an optimistic approximation against an underrated Philly defense that has graded out No. 3 versus the run and No. 7 against the pass in Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics. ... Matt Cassel's play since replacing Brandon Weeden has been as bad or worse, completing 57.7% of his throws with a 6.23 yards-per-attempt average, one touchdown, and three interceptions. The Eagles have held opposing quarterbacks to a combined 10:11 TD-to-INT ratio and 79.1 passer rating, the NFL's sixth stingiest clip. Even with six teams on bye, Cassel isn't a realistic starter in two-QB leagues. ... The stout Philly front has limited enemy backs to 655 yards and just one touchdown on 172 runs (3.81 YPC) this year, including Dallas' 29-90-0 (3.10 YPC) line in Week 2. The good news is Darren McFadden's workloads are bankable, posting touch counts of 31 and 26 the past two weeks on snap rates of 80% and 79%. The Cowboys cut Joseph Randle, while Christine Michael has settled in as a lightly used change-of-pace back. Even against the NFL's toughest defenses, McFadden is a borderline RB1 as long as he's getting usage like this.
Cassel's target distribution with Dez Bryant back last week: McFadden 8; Bryant 6; Jason Witten 4; C-Mike and Terrance Williams 2; Cole Beasley 1. ... Dez seemed to be missing some burst and had to deal with Richard Sherman's shadow coverage in Week 8, but he played 82% of Dallas' snaps and emerged setback free. While Bryant is more of a WR2 than true WR1 with Cassel under center, he should be locked into lineups against an Eagles defense that's permitted receiving lines of 9-141-2 (Julio Jones), 10-109-1 (Brandon Marshall), 7-61-1 (Odell Beckham), 6-141 (Willie Snead), 5-107-1 (Brandin Cooks), 4-84-1 (Terrance Williams), and 7-55-1 (Pierre Garcon) through seven games. ... Targeted heavily with Dez out of the lineup, Witten drew just four looks against Seattle, securing two for 16 yards. Now facing a Philly defense allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, Witten is a fringe TE1 play. ... Held under 50 receiving yards in four of his last five games, Williams is waiver-wire fodder in 14-team leagues.
Score Prediction: Eagles 21, Cowboys 17
Monday Night Football
Chicago @ San Diego
Even in a battle of two-win teams, Bears-Chargers has exciting scoring potential with a 49.5-point Vegas total, second highest of Week 9. Host San Diego is a four-point favorite with a team total of nearly 27. ... Losing Keenan Allen (kidney) for the season certainly stings, but Philip Rivers' weapons remain strong and the Chargers' best means of moving the ball won't change. Unable to open lanes for Melvin Gordon due to a long list of offensive line injuries, San Diego is a devout pass-first team facing a Bears squad that ranks 24th in pass-defense DVOA and 28th in sacks (12) while permitting a 16:4 TD-to-INT ratio to enemy quarterbacks. Rivers has topped 300 yards in five straight games with multiple touchdowns in all but one week this year. ... Gordon looked totally unusable in fantasy leagues entering Week 8, but his owners should be encouraged by Gordon's usage in a tough matchup at Baltimore. Gordon paced San Diego's backfield in snap rate (51%) and touches (23), while the Bolts lost Branden Oliver to a year-ending toe injury. Now back home where his team is favored and facing a Bears team yielding 4.49 YPC to running backs, Gordon is an underrated RB2 play. ... Danny Woodhead also stands to benefit from Oliver's loss, seeing a few more touches per game in what will move from a three-way backfield into a two-man ordeal. Last week's box score was disappointing, but Woodhead has still scored double-digit PPR points in 6-of-8 games and is a solid flex option.
Averaging 12 targets per game in the first seven weeks, Allen's loss creates a huge void in San Diego's high-volume passing game. The top beneficiary figures to be Stevie Johnson, who should become Rivers' first read on far more plays while soaking up short and intermediate looks Allen leaves behind. Primarily a slot receiver, Stevie will run most of his Week 9 routes at torchable Bears slot CB Sherrick McManis, who carries PFF's No. 101 coverage grade among 101 qualified corners over the last month. McManis was benched last week for UDFA Bryce Callahan, who promptly suffered a concussion against the Vikings. ... When Allen missed Weeks 16-17 with a broken collarbone last season, Dontrelle Inman took over as the Chargers' X receiver en route to snap rates of 65% and 85%, target totals of 8 and 9, and stat lines of 7-79 and 5-79. Especially for fantasy owners in bye-week binds, Inman is worth a look as a plug-and-play WR3/flex. ... Antonio Gates went 7-92-2 (9 targets) and 4-67 (6 targets) in Allen's 2014 missed games. Back from his MCL injury, Gates gets an extra day to rest his knee ahead of Monday night and should be locked into lineups as a top-five TE1. ... Although Malcom Floyd is coming off his best game of the season (4-92-2), he is the Bolts pass catcher whose role is least likely to change with Allen's loss. A low-volume, one-trick vertical stretcher, Floyd posted receiving numbers of 4-50-1 and 3-29-0 in Allen's missed games last year. Floyd is still likely to see 1-2 more targets per game, and a plum draw with the Bears' leaky pass defense makes him a passable WR3. ... Ladarius Green left last week's loss to Baltimore with a first-quarter ankle injury and did not return. Green's availability is in doubt. With Allen sidelined in Weeks 16-17 last year, Green's snap rates were 6% and 10% as the Chargers played Eddie Royal and Inman instead of two-tight end sets.
The Bears trek to Qualcomm as four-point dogs with a team total just under 23. ... This game's shootout potential bodes well for the outlook of Jay Cutler, on whom more responsibility is likely to fall with the expected multi-week loss of Matt Forte (MCL). Quietly playing rock-solid football this season, Cutler has a career-low 1.9% interception rate among 207 pass attempts, and another career low in touchdown rate (3.9%) that is primed for positive regression with Alshon Jeffery back rolling at full health. Although the Chargers' run-defense struggles are more often discussed, San Diego is also vulnerable in the air, ranking 25th in pass-defense DVOA and 19th in sacks (15) with a 102.5 passer rating against, the NFL's sixth worst clip. The Bolts are tentatively expected to get back FS Eric Weddle (groin) on Monday night, but he is officially a game-time decision and seems unlikely to be at full health. ... Rookie Jeremy Langford will take over as the Bears' feature back in Forte's absence. A fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, 6-foot, 208-pound Langford ran 4.42 at the Combine and played 26-of-26 snaps after Forte exited last week's loss to the Vikings. Now facing a Chargers defense permitting 5.17 yards per carry to opposing running backs, Langford is an immediate fantasy RB2. Trusted by the Bears' coaching staff at the goal line, Langford already has a pair of one-yard touchdown runs this season.
Cutler's target distribution in Jeffery's three games played: Alshon 37; Martellus Bennett 23; Forte 17; Eddie Royal 15; Marquess Wilson 9; Langford 3. ... Jeffery's target totals are 11, 11, and 16 in his three appearances. He stands 6-foot-3, 216 to Chargers RCB Jason Verrett's 5'9/189 and LCB Brandon Flowers' 5'10/189. Still underpriced on DFS sites, Jeffery is a high-end WR1 play whenever he's healthy. Jeffery has been targeted on 35% of Cutler's passes over the Bears' last two games. For perspective, Julio Jones leads the NFL in target rate at 33%. ... Bennett's usage and production have been uneven with Jeffery healthy, drawing target counts of 7, 11, and 5 with stat lines of 5-55-1, 6-59-0, and 3-32-0. Martellus could still see a slight boost in volume near the line of scrimmage with Royal (knee) seeming unlikely to play. The Chargers are allowing the 11th most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Royal left last week's loss to Minnesota in the second quarter and did not return, which isn't a good sign for his prospects. If Royal can't go, the Bears will turn to Wilson at No. 2 receiver. As Jeffery is likely to primarily face Verrett, Wilson would have a positive matchup against Flowers, who's been the weakest link in San Diego's secondary. Wilson is worth a look as a dart-throw WR3.
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Bears 23