1:00 PM ET Games
Detroit @ Minnesota
Vegas Projected Score: Vikings 23.5, Lions 17.5
Even after getting stunningly embarrassed in primetime at Soldier Field last Monday night, the Vikings’ defense should be considered an imposing opponent for Matthew Stafford in this classic get-right spot back home. Minnesota still ranks No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA, eighth in the NFL in sacks (20), and seventh in quarterback hits (48), and this game’s low-scoring likelihood works in the defensive-minded Vikings’ favor with the lowest total (41) of Week 9. For better or worse, I’m giving Mike Zimmer’s defense a pass for laying an egg in Chicago and considering this a fantasy matchup to avoid for Stafford. At 17.5 points, the Lions have the lowest team total of the week. … Back from his high ankle sprain, Theo Riddick was immediately restored to feature back duties in Detroit’s Week 9 loss to Houston, parlaying 19 touches into 133 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 85% of the snaps. Dwayne Washington was a healthy scratch and Zach Zenner wasn’t a factor at all. The Vikings are usually tough to run on, but they have allowed the NFL’s ninth most receiving yards (380) to enemy backs and should force Stafford to check down often to Riddick. Despite missing two games, Riddick ranks second among running backs in catches (34), third in red-zone targets (8), and second in targets inside the ten-yard line (4). As the Vikings’ stout corners seem likely to put blankets on the Lions’ receivers, Riddick could easily end up as Detroit’s primary means of moving the chains. Riddick has 15 or more touches in five straight games.
Stafford’s targets with Riddick and Eric Ebron back last week: Riddick 11; Ebron 10; Golden Tate 9; Marvin Jones 7; Anquan Boldin 3; Zenner 1. … Just two wide receivers (Jordy Nelson, Tajae Sharpe) have cleared 65 yards versus the Vikings’ defense through seven games and only four (Nelson, DeAndre Hopkins, Dorial Green-Beckham, Alshon Jeffery) have scored touchdowns against Minnesota. This is a worrisome matchup for Jones, who has cleared 40 yards once over the last month while being out-targeted by Tate 36 to 23 during that span. … Tate topped 90 yards in each of Riddick’s two missed games, but he has reached 50 yards in 0-of-6 games where Riddick has played. Tate looks like a low-floor, fringe WR3 play specific to PPR leagues. On the season, Minnesota is yielding the NFL’s second fewest catches (76) and yards (785) to wide receivers. … Ebron returned from his foot/ankle injury to log a season-high ten targets in last week’s loss to Houston, playing 80% of the snaps. The Vikings are mid-pack or slightly better in tight end coverage based on Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics and fantasy points allowed, where they rank 16th against the position. Ebron went 5-43-1 and 5-89-1 in last year’s two meetings with Zimmer’s defense. I’m still treating Ebron as a risky TE1 play, but his matchup is certainly better than Jones or Tate's. … Slot man Boldin has exceeded 60 yards in 0-of-8 games and is scoreless in each of Riddick’s last three appearances. Let’s aim higher for spot-start plays.
In large part due to atrocious line play, the Vikings’ offense has tanked since its Week 6 bye with point totals of 10 and 10 against the Eagles and Bears in Weeks 7-8. Sam Bradford took six sacks in Philly and five in Chicago and has begun to appear shell shocked in the pocket, staring wide eyed and gripping the ball in fear. Norv Turner’s Wednesday resignation moves West Coast offense proponent Pat Shurmur into the OC role on a team that must begin emphasizing plays that get the ball out of Bradford’s hands quickly in order to negate pass rush. On paper, this game looks every bit a get-right spot against a Lions pass defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA and has allowed NFL highs in TD passes (19) and passer rating (113.7). 6-of-8 quarterbacks to face Detroit have finished as the fantasy QB12 or better, the exceptions being Brock Osweiler last week and Marcus Mariota all the way back in Week 2. In Bradford facing the Lions, we have a below-average quarterback in the best-possible quarterback matchup and we can make fantasy lineup decisions from there. … Jerick McKinnon’s availability and in-game effectiveness are both in doubt this week while dealing with what is believed to be a high ankle sprain. Although Matt Asiata struggled on the ground against the Bears, he handled 16 touches to Ronnie Hillman’s 6 and played 70% of Minnesota’s snaps. Asiata also dominated carries in scoring position. The Lions are 24th in run-defense DVOA and have yielded the NFL’s fourth most catches (46) to enemy backs. Asiata is short on talent and disappointed in last week’s plus spot, but he will remain a volume-based RB2 play if McKinnon sits. McKinnon’s Thursday and Friday practice participation suggests he will try to play, however, which would make this backfield difficult to measure with so many moving parts and unstable workloads.
Bradford's target distribution with Stefon Diggs in the lineup this year: Diggs 43; Kyle Rudolph 42; Adam Thielen 27; Cordarrelle Patterson and Asiata 17; McKinnon and Charles Johnson 9; Hillman 6. … In a week with numerous top-tier TE1s on bye, Rudolph is a top-three tight end play against a Lions defense that gets smashed by the position routinely, including last week’s 10-94-1 performance by Texans tight ends. Rudolph ranks fifth among NFL tight ends in targets (54). He leads the Vikings in red-zone targets (7) and targets inside the ten-yard line (3). … Although his volume was obviously aided by negative game script, Diggs set a season high with 13 targets in last week’s loss to the Bears. In Diggs’ three games not listed on the injury report with a groin injury, he has turned in stat lines of 7-103, 9-182-1, 8-76-1. His stat lines are 4-40-0, 5-47-0, 2-18-0 when listed with the injury. Diggs is not on the Week 9 injury report. … Thielen has taken over as a full-time receiver in the Vikings’ offense, logging snap rates of 92%, 88%, 89% over the last three games. Thielen went off (7-127-1) when Diggs missed Week 5 against the Texans, but Thielen has managed receiving lines of 2-52-0 and 3-40-0 in two games since the bye, seeing five targets in each. Thielen has topped five targets in just one game all year. … Patterson is now the Vikings’ third receiver, a role in which he’s drawn target totals of 6 > 6 > 7 > 3 over the last four games. Patterson’s big-play potential is obvious, but his usage has been inconsistent and ultimately low. Still, the plus matchup with Detroit’s league-worst secondary makes both Thielen and Patterson worthy of dart-throw consideration for fantasy owners in especially major bye-week binds.
Score Prediction: Vikings 21, Lions 17
Editor's Note: Most FanDuel NFL players spend little to no time analyzing the kicker position. Don't be one of them. Contrary to popular opinion, kickers can be fairly predictable - and can give you an edge in your games this weekend. Hop over to RotoGrinders and check out The Kicker Study: Week 9.
Philadelphia @ NY Giants
Vegas Projected Score: Giants 22.75, Eagles 20.25
This is another ugly fantasy game on a slate chock full of them. Eli Manning returns from his bye for a brutal matchup against an Eagles pass defense that ranks No. 1 in DVOA, third in sacks (22), and fifth in quarterback hits (50) and whose talented front-seven personnel should cause fits for New York’s shaky offensive line. Manning has multiple touchdown passes in just 2-of-7 starts and is PFF’s No. 28-graded passer under pressure among 32 qualifiers. Eli has not been a useful fantasy quarterback this season, and there is little reason to believe that will change in Week 9. … There has been chatter in New York that the Giants may emerge from their bye giving rookie Paul Perkins more work, although it will likely come in a three-way committee with Bobby Rainey and Rashad Jennings. In the Giants’ pre-bye win over the Rams, Jennings led the backfield with 15 touches but was completely ineffective on the ground (13-25-1) and played only 51% of the snaps. Perkins was next up with five touches on 26% of the downs, and Rainey was third with two touches on a 21% playing-time clip. Even against an Eagles run defense that has struggled without NT Bennie Logan (groin), this is a situation where I would much rather wait and see how things play out for a week than gamble on one of the Giants’ backs as a Week 9 fantasy start. The Giants’ running game has been bad as an entity this season, ranking 29th in yards per carry (3.35) and 23rd in rushing-offense DVOA. Perkins does offers the highest ceiling as a season-long bench stash.
Eli’s Weeks 1-7 targets: Odell Beckham 70; Sterling Shepard 48; Victor Cruz 41; Will Tye 25; Rainey and Larry Donnell 21; Jennings 11. … Although Philadelphia has done well to limit wide receiver production through scheme, up-front pressure, and keepaway methods for most of the season, the Eagles have been tagged by Dez Bryant (4-113-1) and Cordarrelle Patterson (7-67-1) in the last two weeks and are especially vulnerable at right corner (Nolan Carroll) and in the slot (rookie Jalen Mills). Beat writers believe Beckham will run more interior routes coming out of the bye, which would get him matched up burnable Mills and/or FS Malcolm Jenkins. OBJ’s volume is bankable with nine-plus targets in six straight games, and he has posted his best yardage totals in the Giants’ three home games (8-86-0, 7-121-0, 8-222-2) this year. Beckham is an elite season-long WR1 start with lots of DFS tournament appeal. … Shepard’s matchup is intriguing inside against Mills, but the Giants’ rookie slot receiver has been held under 40 yards in four straight games and has just three red-zone targets on the year, behind Beckham (7) and Cruz (5). Shepard is a risky WR3/4 in season-long leagues whose recent production suggests he doesn’t offer much ceiling, either. … Cruz has cleared 60 yards in 2-of-7 games and is scoreless in six straight. In this probable low-scoring affair, starting Cruz would require quite the leap of faith. … Donnell and Tye can be ignored against an Eagles defense allowing league lows in catches (18) and yards (181) to tight ends.
Fantasy’s QB29, QB29, and QB23 weekly finisher over his last three games, rookie Carson Wentz will take on a Giants defense that has allowed just one top-12 fantasy quarterback through seven games and is healthy off its bye after dealing with myriad early-season injuries in the secondary. The Giants rank No. 9 in pass-defense DVOA. Limited to short-area passing due the Eagles’ unreliable pass protection and shortage of perimeter weapons, Wentz has averaged under five yards per pass attempt in back-to-back weeks. Philadelphia’s offense is averaging just 16.5 points per game over the last month, instead staying competitive with its defense and special teams. Wentz looks like a low-end two-quarterback-league option in Week 9. … In addition to Ryan Mathews and rookie Wendell Smallwood’s ball-security woes, the Eagles’ interior running game has come untracked due to the losses of RT Lane Johnson (suspension) and LG Allen Barbre (hamstring). Space back Darren Sproles has easily been Philadelphia’s best tailback option and was treated like it in last Sunday night’s loss to Dallas, logging seasons highs in touches (20) and playing time (82%) en route to 103 total yards. Mathews managed five touches on 11% of the snaps against the Cowboys. Despite coach Doug Pederson’s Wednesday insistence that Mathews remains the Eagles’ “lead back,” with few exceptions Mathews hasn’t been utilized as a true lead back all year. Sproles is the only playable Eagles running back in fantasy leagues this week. Sproles deserves to be a popular play on points-per-reception DFS sites due to his passing-game usage and cheap price.
Wentz’s target distribution since the Week 4 bye: Jordan Matthews 29; Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor 21; Sproles 15; Zach Ertz 13; Josh Huff 8; Mathews 7; Trey Burton 6; Smallwood 2. … Matthews matched his season high with 14 targets in last week’s loss to Dallas. Although J-Matt’s usage has hardly proven reliable this year, he gets another plus draw against a Giants defense that struggles mightily in the slot, yielding 4-78-1 to Jamison Crowder, 5-54-1 to Willie Snead, 8-65 to Cole Beasley, 9-108 to Randall Cobb, and 10-57-1 to Tavon Austin. Matthews has 65-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 6-of-7 games. … Agholor has played 20 NFL games and has never cleared 65 yards. … Green-Beckham remained a part-time player (64%) in Week 8, but he did see a season-high nine targets albeit against a Cowboys defense that lost top CB Morris Claiborne (groin) and SS Barry Church (arm) during the game. DGB remains a mere deep-league and Dynasty stash until we see some semblance of consistency in his usage. … Good matchups haven’t been able to resurrect Ertz, whose target totals since the bye week are 3, 3, 3, 4. Scoreless on the season, Ertz has one red-zone target and no targets inside the ten-yard line.
Score Prediction: Giants 21, Eagles 20
Editor's Note: Special Offer - Get our Fantasy Football Season Pass for FREE with a $10+ deposit on FanDuel -- claim now! Must be a new FanDuel user.
NY Jets @ Miami
Vegas Projected Score: Dolphins 23.75, Jets 20.25
Fresh off their bye week, Ryan Tannehill’s Dolphins play Week 9 host to a Jets pass defense that ranks No. 31 in DVOA and has allowed top-15 fantasy quarterback performances in 6-of-8 games including last week’s QB10 finish to Josh McCown. Gang Green continues to get minimal pressure on opposing signal callers, managing eight sacks over the last seven weeks. As C Mike Pouncey and LT Branden Albert are both finally healthy, Tannehill’s protection has been solidified and he took just one sack combined in the two games prior to Miami’s Week 8 bye. Tannehill threw multiple touchdown passes in each of last year’s two meetings with Jets coach Todd Bowles’ defense and is worth a look as a Week 9 streamer QB1. In DFS, Tannehill is stackable with Jarvis Landry and/or DeVante Parker, who both had big 2015 games against the Jets and have outstanding matchups as we’ll get to in a minute. … Since taking over as the Dolphins’ offensive centerpiece two games ago, Jay Ajayi has logged touch counts of 26 and 29 on snap rates of 69% and 64%. Arian Foster’s retirement further secures Ajayi’s bellcow usage. While Ajayi’s Week 9 matchup is certainly challenging against a Jets run defense that ranks No. 3 in DVOA, Ajayi shredded a similarly difficult Week 7 draw versus Buffalo (28-214-1) and has established himself as Miami’s best means of moving the chains on offense. Running backs seeing workloads of Ajayi’s caliber tend to produce regardless of matchups. At worst, Ajayi is a reasonable RB2 play in season-long leagues.
Tannehill's targets over his last five games: Jarvis Landry 32; DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills 23; Damien Williams 10; Ajayi 6; Kenyan Drake 5. … Likely to be a popular DFS cash-game play, Landry has at least five receptions in 6-of-7 games, and he throttled Bowles’ Jets for 13-165-1 in their last meeting. As slot CB Buster Skrine is battling a knee injury, Gang Green gave up two touchdowns to Browns slot WR Andrew Hawkins last week. The Jets’ stout run defense can force opponents to attack in the air, where chain-moving, tackle-breaking Landry is a high-volume extension of the running game. Despite an early-season bye, Landry ranks sixth in the NFL in catches (46), tenth in receiving yards (572), and fifth in 20-plus-yard grabs (11). … Parker is a much riskier bet, but he dropped 4-80-1 on Gang Green last Week 12 and has a great matchup against dead-legged Darrelle Revis, whose poor Week 8 effort stuck out on tape. The Jets’ secondary has been flamed by Terrelle Pryor (6-101), Mike Wallace (10-120), Sammie Coates (6-139-2), Antonio Brown (9-78-1), Marquise Goodwin (2-112-1), Greg Salas (4-89-1), A.J. Green (12-180-1), and Brandon LaFell (4-91). Parker is a boom-bust play with a realistic chance to boom in this matchup. … 4.38 speedster Stills also has the necessary skill set to exploit New York’s slow-footed secondary, although Stills’ usage has been inconsistent with target totals of 3, 1, 3, 8 over his last four games. Stills did explode (5-100-1) in Miami’s pre-bye win over Buffalo, out-snapping Parker 93% to 67%. Like Parker, Stills offers upside with a low floor. He’s been held under 40 yards in 4-of-7 games.
Matt Forte continued to handle bellcow usage in last week’s win over Cleveland and now has touch totals of 34 and 27 over his last two games. The Jets’ offense seems to function more smoothly and on schedule when Forte is utilized as a feature back rather than a committee partner with change-of-pace option Bilal Powell. The Dolphins rank a sub-par 17th in run-defense DVOA and are yielding the NFL’s second most run plays per game (31.1). Forte is a high-floor RB1/2 play with upside derived from his scoring-position usage, where Forte ranks fourth in the NFL in red-zone carries (28) and carries inside the ten-yard line (15), and second in carries inside the five (10). … Powell’s turf toe had no impact on his Week 8 role or effectiveness. He played 42% of New York’s offensive snaps, parlaying seven touches into 79 yards and a touchdown. Powell would be a weak flex play against the Dolphins, but he remains rosterable in season-long leagues as an upside backup with some standalone value. … Since becoming a Jet in 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 24:11 TD-to-INT ratio in home games and a 14:15 TD-to-INT ratio on the road. Beginning with most recent, Fitzpatrick’s weekly fantasy finishes in road games this year are QB18, QB30, QB17, QB35, QB8. Facing an overachieving Dolphins pass defense that quietly ranks top ten in DVOA, Fitzpatrick is better viewed as a two-quarterback-league play as opposed to a QB1 streamer. Fitzpatrick’s first-half performance was so poor in last week’s cakewalk matchup with the Browns that backup Bryce Petty at one point began warming up. Fitzpatrick will remain at risk of in-game benchings. His outlook is further impeded by the Jets' loss of C Nick Mangold (ankle) and LT Ryan Clady's (shoulder) questionable listing. I love the fantasy Dolphins' D/ST this week.
Fitzpatrick’s targets over his last five games: Brandon Marshall 47; Quincy Enunwa 31; Powell 23; Robby Anderson 21; Charone Peake 13; Forte 11. … Frustratingly contained by Jimmy Smith (3-39-0) and Joe Haden (4-68-0) in back-to-back weeks, Marshall has still drawn at least eight targets in 7-of-8 games and ranks third among NFL receivers in red-zone targets (13). In his age-32 season, Marshall’s efficiency metrics are poor enough that he may need to be downgraded to a WR2/3 in season-long leagues. Still, Marshall’s usage is secure and his Week 9 matchup is appealing against burnable Dolphins perimeter CBs Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett. Facing his former team, there is also a #RevengeGame narrative in play. Marshall shredded the Dolphins for 9-131-2 and 7-128-0 in last year’s two meetings. … Enunwa’s snap rate jumped back up to 81% in last week’s win over the Browns, tying a season high with 11 targets and hitting pay dirt for the second straight game. Leading the Jets in targets inside the ten-yard line (5), Enunwa (6’2/225) will run most of his Week 9 routes at Dolphins slot CB Bobby McCain (5’9/195), whom PFF has charged with 11 completions allowed on 14 targets (79%) for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly the Jets’ No. 2 receiving option again, Enunwa has earned his way back onto the WR3 map. … Anderson has been a near-full-time player in the Jets’ offense for the last five weeks, but he has zero 50-yard games and zero red-zone targets. He would be a low-floor shot in the dart as a spot-start WR3.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 27, Jets 20
Jacksonville @ Kansas City
Vegas Projected Score: Chiefs 25.75, Jaguars 18.25
Resting/benching/sitting Alex Smith due to an alleged non-concussion – don’t ask me – the Chiefs will start Nick Foles against a Jaguars pass defense that ranks No. 13 in DVOA and has allowed just 1-of-7 quarterbacks they’ve faced to exceed 270 passing yards. Although Jacksonville’s back-end coverage has been relatively sturdy, Gus Bradley’s defense is not imposing from a pass-rush standpoint whatsoever with a league-low 27 quarterback hits and the NFL’s sixth fewest sacks (13). Beginning with most recent, these are the last five signal callers the Jaguars have played with their fantasy finishes in parentheses: Marcus Mariota (QB12); Derek Carr (QB20); Brian Hoyer (QB20); Andrew Luck (QB10); Joe Flacco (QB23). Foles is versed enough in Andy Reid’s quarterback-friendly offense to have short-term success, much as he did off the bench in last week’s win over Indianapolis. He’s a viable spot starter in two-quarterback leagues. … Bradley’s run defense is much less daunting with a No. 27 ranking in DVOA and the NFL’s ninth most rushing touchdown (7) allowed to enemy backs. The Jags were trucked by Titans backs for a combined 37-183-2 (4.95 YPC) rushing line last Thursday night. As Jamaal Charles (knees) was placed on I.R. and Spencer Ware (concussion) is looking doubtful, the Chiefs’ only healthy backs are Charcandrick West and Patriots practice-squad signee Bishop Sankey. Although he was passed convincingly by Ware on the depth chart earlier this year, West showed the ability to pay major fantasy dividends in Reid’s offense last season, and Reid showed a willingness to ride West hard when necessary. Including the playoffs, West amassed 15-plus touches in seven games and scored five TDs in them, averaging 96.4 total yards per game. Assuming Ware is ruled out, West will be a borderline RB1 in this plus draw.
Foles didn’t lock on to any individual pass catcher against the Colts, targeting no one more than five times. He did throw a 14-yard touchdown to Travis Kelce in the second quarter and hit Tyreek Hill from 34 yards out in the third. The Jags have defended tight ends well for most of the year, but they did get hit for 5-105-0 by Titans tight ends last time out, and Kelce is always a good fantasy play on talent alone. Kelce ranks second among NFL tight ends in red-zone targets (10) and is tied for first in targets inside the ten-yard line (6). … Maclin finally found the paint on a 13-yard pass delivered by Smith versus Indy, but he has cleared 70 yards in 1-of-7 games and hasn’t hit 50 yards since Kansas City’s Week 5 bye. In Week 9, Maclin will mostly match up with impressive rookie RCB Jalen Ramsey or slot CB Aaron Colvin, neither of whom presents an especially compelling draw. Maclin remains a low-ceiling WR3 option in season-long leagues. Although it occurred in an entirely different style of offense, it is perhaps noteworthy that Maclin had the best season of his career with Foles quarterbacking for eight games in Philadelphia in 2014. … Rookie speedster Hill broke out (5-98-1) against the Colts, but he played only 28% of the snaps and is really just a rotational gadget guy. On such low usage, Hill is hard to trust as a fantasy start against an above-average pass defense in a game Kansas City will likely look to control on the ground.
Playing awful football but sporadically productive when viewed from a hindsight standpoint, I’ve found no decipherable trend to Blake Bortles’ good and bad box scores beyond the fact that he sometimes hits in garbage time against prevent defenses but sometimes does not. On the season, Bortles has finished above the weekly QB15 in just 2-of-7 games. Bortles rushed for a touchdown and threw for only 207 yards against the Colts in the first, and in the second he dumped three second-half passing TDs on the Titans after Tennessee jumped out to a 27-0 first-half lead. Bortles’ matchup is tough on paper at Arrowhead against Kansas City’s No. 7 pass defense per DVOA. The Chiefs are 7.5-point favorites in the biggest spread of Week 9, however, and it is certainly conceivable Bortles will pile up late-game fantasy points if Jacksonville again falls behind. I think he can be viewed only as a boom-bust fantasy option. … You may remember new Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett as the ex-Bills coordinator who promised to feed C.J. Spiller “until he throws up” in 2013, then proceeded to use Spiller as a change-of-pace back behind Fred Jackson. I have no idea what impact Hackett will have on Jacksonville’s offense. I do know Chris Ivory’s touch totals are 13, 8, 13, 7, 5 through five games as a Jaguar. T.J. Yeldon’s touch totals in those games are 8, 18, 7, 7, 7. And I know I don’t want to start any Jaguars running backs at Arrowhead.
Bortles’ targets since the Jaguars’ Week 5 bye: Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns 29; Julius Thomas and Marqise Lee 17; Marcedes Lewis 10; Yeldon 8; Ivory 7. … Robinson has been a colossal fantasy bust, but he does rank 12th among NFL wideouts in targets (70) and fourth in red-zone targets (12) and runs most of his routes at right corners, keeping Robinson away from stationary LCB Marcus Peters for most of this game. We also know he’s cleared 75 yards in 0-of-7 games. I’m still firing up Robinson in season-long leagues, but merely as a volume-based WR3. Robinson’s DFS price has also cratered enough that I think he is worth a look there as a tournament play. Because the Chiefs’ shutdown tight end coverage funnels action toward enemy wideouts, Kansas City has allowed the NFL’s eighth most catches (106) and ninth most touchdowns (9) to wide receivers. … Lee busted badly (1-21-0) in last week’s prime matchup with Titans backup LCB Antwon Blake and is now likely to run most of his routes at Peters. … On paper, Hurns has the best Week 9 draw in Jacksonville’s pass-catcher corps against flammable slot CB Steven Nelson. Hurns has also drawn seven-plus targets in five of his last six games. While he is a logical WR3 play in season-long leagues this week, it is worth keeping in mind that things have rarely gone as expected in Jacksonville’s dysfunctional passing game. Hurns has finished above 75 yards in 1-of-7 games. … Fighting through nagging lower-body injuries, Thomas hasn’t cleared 30 yards since Week 2. He played a season-low 47% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps in Week 8. Kansas City has checked Coby Fleener (2-44-0), Clive Walford (2-25-0), Jesse James (2-15-1), C.J. Fiedorowicz (1-1-0), Antonio Gates/Hunter Henry (4-40-0), and Jack Doyle (2-36-0) this year. The odds are against Thomas paying off as a fantasy start in Week 9.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 24, Jaguars 17
Dallas @ Cleveland
Vegas Projected Score: Cowboys 27.75, Browns 20.75
Matching up with the Keepaway Cowboys, the biggest concern for Browns skill players is play volume against a Dallas team that permits the NFL’s fourth fewest offensive snaps per game (62.6) and should impose its will against a deteriorating Cleveland run defense. The Cowboys lead the NFL in time of possession (33:16). The Browns are turning back to Cody Kessler after he finished as the QB24 or lower in three of his first four starts. Only 2-of-7 quarterbacks to face Dallas have finished as the QB12 or better, while each of the last two (Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz) have finished QB19 or worse. As the Cowboys generate minimal pressure and will be missing top CB Morris Claiborne (groin) and SS Barry Church (arm), Kessler should still be able to move the ball enough to pay off as a two-quarterback-league start. … Although the Cowboys are not overwhelmingly stout up front, their keepaway methods have translated into the NFL’s second fewest run plays (21.6) per game for their opponents, and Dallas ranks No. 7 in run-defense DVOA. The Cowboys yield the league’s ninth fewest rushing yards per game (92.9). Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing TDs (3), and Dallas surrenders just 4.4 receptions per game to enemy running backs. Isaiah Crowell is averaging a mere 13.3 touches per game and 2.89 yards per carry over the last month. Duke Johnson’s consistent receiving involvement keeps him playable in season-long PPR leagues, but neither Browns running back stands out as offering much Week 9 upside.
Kessler's target distribution this year: Terrelle Pryor 40; Johnson 23; Gary Barnidge 19; Ricardo Louis 17; Andrew Hawkins 13; Crowell 11. … Only one opposing wide receiver has topped 75 yards against Dallas through seven games, while the Cowboys have held A.J. Green (4-50-0), Alshon Jeffery (5-70-0), DeSean Jackson (3-40-0), Odell Beckham (4-73-0), and Jordy Nelson (5-68-0) in check. Pryor’s matchup is improved by Claiborne’s absence, but the box-score limitations Dallas causes are also a function of defensive scheme and possession-time dominance. Pryor’s matchup is not quite as good as the loss of Claiborne makes it appear. Still, Pryor has receiving lines of 8-144-0, 5-46-1, and 9-75-2 in Kessler’s three full games played and is a solid WR2 play against Dallas. … Barnidge’s stat lines in Kessler’s three full games are 5-66-0, 7-57-0, and 3-59-0, while Barnidge has drawn at least seven targets in four of the last five weeks. He came oh-so-close to scoring two touchdowns in last week’s loss to the Jets, first drawing an end-zone pass interference penalty that resulted in a one-yard Crowell score and hitting fourth-quarter pay dirt only to get just one foot in bounds. Yes, it was that kind of week. In Week 9, Barnidge has a plus draw against a Dallas defense allowing the NFL’s seventh most catches (44) and 12th most yards (441) to tight ends. … Corey Coleman torched Ravens CB Shareece Wright (5-104-2) in Week 2, then broke his hand in practice the following Wednesday and is due back Sunday following a six-week layoff. While Coleman is a dynamic talent with the potential to become an impact player in time, I would be very hard pressed to trust him in a fantasy lineup in his first game back. Coleman’s playing time is unclear and he has never played a regular season snap on the same field as rookie quarterback Kessler.
High-floor fantasy quarterbacks who mix in spiked weeks are exactly what we’re looking for, and Dak Prescott has been precisely that with five straight top-14 weekly finishes, mixing in three inside the top ten and two in the top six. Prescott is eighth among quarterbacks in rushing attempts (27), first in rushing touchdowns (4), and tied with Cam Newton for first in carries inside the ten-yard line (6). From a passing standpoint, Prescott benefits from facing a Cleveland defense that has yielded a league-high 19 touchdown passes and an AFC-high 103.4 passer rating. In both season-long leagues and DFS, Prescott is an excellent Week 9 play. His DFS ownership percentage may be undeservedly low due to all of the focus on Ezekiel Elliott. … Zeke, of course, is in an ideal Week 9 spot against the Browns, who have plummeted to No. 31 in run-defense DVOA while surrendering the league’s third most rushing attempts per game (30.2). Elliott leads the NFL in per-game carries (22.7) and rushing yards (114.1) and has topped 140 total yards in five straight games. Cleveland has been gutted by Bengals and Jets running backs for a combined 61-429-5 (7.03 YPC) rushing line over the last two weeks. With the exception of perhaps Le’Veon Bell, Elliott looks like the highest-floor, highest-ceiling running back play on this week’s slate. For season-long owners in bye-week binds, I wouldn’t be opposed to firing up Alfred Morris as a desperation flex play considering how likely Dallas’ offense is to have rushing success in this game.
Prescott’s target distribution with Dez Bryant in the lineup this year: Bryant 37; Cole Beasley 32; Jason Witten 23; Terrance Williams 15; Elliott 10; Brice Butler 7. … Bryant played 88% of the Cowboys’ snaps in his Week 8 return and has paid off as a fantasy start in each of his last three games, posting 7-102-0, 3-40-1, and 4-113-1 on target counts of 12, 6, and 14. While Browns top CB Joe Haden has played well in matchups with Brandon Marshall (4-68-0) and DeSean Jackson (1-5-0), he has also struggled with Nelson Agholor (4-57-1) and Chris Hogan (4-114-0) and isn’t really someone we should fear. … Beasley has actually been targeted more when Dez has played this year and the Browns have hemorrhaged slot receiver production to Jordan Matthews (7-114-1), Jarvis Landry (7-120-1), Kendall Wright (8-133-1), and Quincy Enunwa (4-93-1). On the off chance Haden does slow down Dez, Beasley would stand to benefit. … Not only did Witten’s game-winning Week 8 touchdown catch seal the Milly Maker victory for Rotoworld Pick Six Show host Eric Crain – the score thankfully did not go to Elliott – it was Witten’s first TD since Week 1 of the 2015 season. It was also Witten’s first target inside the ten-yard line all year. Witten has now gone 17 straight games without clearing 70 yards and he has not reached 50 yards since Week 2. Even in one of the best-possible matchups for tight ends, Witten has the look of a low-floor, low-ceiling streamer.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Browns 21
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Vegas Projected Score: Steelers 22.25, Ravens 21.25
A top-15 fantasy passer in just 1-of-7 games this year, Joe Flacco flopped (QB27) in a gorgeous matchup with the Jets last time out and failed to crack the top half of scoring (QB17) against Cleveland’s sieve-like pass defense earlier in the season. If we finally see Flacco play well against the Steelers, I think we can entertain streaming him in next week’s home-game rematch with the Browns. Even in a plus Week 9 matchup with Pittsburgh, Flacco hasn’t done enough to earn our trust beyond two-quarterback leagues and DFS tournament dart throws. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Flacco has thrown multiple touchdown passes in just 5-of-17 games (29%). … The good Week 9 news for Ravens RBs is that the Steelers’ defense has been leveled for a combined 119-611-7 (5.13 YPC) rushing line by enemy backs over its last five games. The bad news is ILB Ryan Shazier (knee) and difference-maker RE Cameron Heyward (hamstring) are healthy after their injuries were the root cause of Pittsburgh’s run-defense woes. Coach John Harbaugh stated during Baltimore’s Week 9 bye that he wants to get rookie Kenneth Dixon more involved. Although Terrance West has by far been their best back this season, the Ravens’ commitment to West and the running game in general has continued to waver under interim OC Marty Mornhinweg. West logged only eight touches on 36% of the snaps in Baltimore’s pre-bye loss to the Jets. Additionally, Dixon was out-snapped and out-touched (7%, 2) by Lorenzo Taliaferro (21%, 4) in that game. I’m not sure where to go with the Ravens’ backfield this week. Ideally, it is a situation to avoid.
Friday Update: When I wrote this section, it appeared as if Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) would not be ready for Sunday's game. On Friday, he returned to a full practice and now appears likely to play despite a questionable tag. While immediately employing fantasy players coming off multi-week injuries is inherently risky, most signs point to "89" resuming his normal role against the Steelers. He drew consecutive target totals of 11 and 11 before going down in Week 5. Smith's return would lower the target projections for the rest of Baltimore's pass catchers.
Flacco’s target distribution in Steve Smith Sr.’s two missed games: Mike Wallace 22; Dennis Pitta 20; Breshad Perriman 13; Kamar Aiken 12; Kyle Juszczyk 7; West 6; Chris Moore 4; Taliaferro and Dixon 3. … Regardless of Smith's availability, Wallace has established himself as a high-volume presence with nine-plus targets in four straight games. Wallace will run a majority of his Week 9 routes at Steelers rookie RCB Artie Burns. Wallace also has a stranglehold on red-zone targets (7) in Baltimore’s passing game. … Pittsburgh has tightened up its slot coverage since benching rookie Sean Davis and inserting William Gay at slot corner. Ravens slot man Aiken is scoreless on the year and has yet to clear 65 yards. (Smith was running the most slot routes on the Ravens before going down.) … Pittsburgh has yielded the NFL’s 13th most receptions (38) and ninth most yards (468) to tight ends. Pitta hasn’t scored a touchdown since December of 2013, however, and Shazier’s return is a major factor in tight end coverage. I’m viewing Pitta as a solid-if-unspectacular streamer in this game. … Perriman’s snap rates in the absence of Smith were 67% and 74% with target totals of 8 and 5. Perriman’s big-play potential is always tantalizing, but he has yet to clear 50 yards this year and has failed in some great-looking spots. He’s a shot in the dark, and not an especially good one if Smith plays.
Ben Roethlisberger has horrible home-road splits since the beginning of the 2014 season, managing an 18:18 TD-to-INT ratio in away games compared to a 51:13 TD-to-INT ratio at Heinz Field. There is also a good chance Ben will be rusty and/or short of 100% a little over two weeks removed from meniscus surgery. Baltimore ranks a respectable No. 14 in pass-defense DVOA and has allowed top-20 fantasy quarterback finishes in just 3-of-7 games, also permitting the NFL’s sixth fewest passing yards per game (220.0). While Roethlisberger is a top-12 QB1 play in season-long leagues this week, I wouldn’t consider him trustworthy in DFS. … Since returning from suspension four games ago, Le’Veon Bell has piled up yardage totals of 178, 154, 108, 149 but has yet to hit pay dirt. Positive touchdown regression is going to hit soon, and it’s going to hit hard. While the Ravens’ run defense deserves our respect – it ranks No. 1 in DVOA and has limited enemy backs to 3.53 yards per carry – Baltimore was gashed for 154 total yards and two TDs by Matt Forte in its last game and Bell’s all-purpose usage makes him matchup proof. Despite having appeared in only four games, Bell already ranks sixth among NFL running backs in targets (37) and fifth in receptions (30). Only Ezekiel Elliott has a case to be a better Week 9 running back play.
Antonio Brown has a touchdown and/or 100-plus yards in 5-of-7 games and has drawn at least 11 targets in four of Roethlisberger’s five full games played. The Ravens had success limiting Brown last year, holding him to receiving lines of 7-61-0 and 5-42-0. In three meetings the season prior, however, Brown roasted Baltimore three times (11-144-1, 7-90) including the playoffs (9-117). Still, the Ravens have allowed a league-high 13 touchdown catches to enemy wide receivers, and even the league’s best pass defenses have trouble containing Brown’s devastating short-area quicks and route-running ability. As Baltimore’s stout run defense can create pass-funnel situations, Brown should be fired up confidently this week with a lofty target projection. … Whereas Brown will run most of his Week 9 routes at solid Ravens RCB Jimmy Smith, now-healthy Sammie Coates offers big-play upside against whomever Baltimore trots out at left cornerback, which will be either Shareece Wright, Tavon Young, or Jerraud Powers. Before suffering a hand injury that limited his playing time in Weeks 6-7, Coates had come on strong with target totals of 8 and 11 in Weeks 4-5. As Markus Wheaton has been benched, Eli Rogers’ role has been unreliable, and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s pre-bye-week snaps rose only because Coates was injured, Coates’ featured deep-threat role should be restored in a great Week 9 matchup. … Jesse James has been a useful red-zone presence in the Steelers’ offense, but he has cleared 50 yards in 0-of-7 games and Baltimore has permitted the NFL’s fourth fewest yards (252) to tight ends. James is purely a touchdown-or-bust streamer. The Ravens have given up zero touchdowns to tight ends this year.
Score Prediction: Ravens 23, Steelers 20
4:05 PM ET Games
New Orleans @ San Francisco
Vegas Projected Score: Saints 28, 49ers 24.5
Considering the weakness of his opponent and Drew Brees’ overall QB2 finish in his last road game – Week 7 at Kansas City – I’m thinking we can ease off dinging Brees for his road splits in this beautiful spot. Brees has accounted for multiple touchdowns in 6-of-7 games, and in Week 9 he faces a San Francisco defense that is permitting 36.5 points over its last six games including 4.3 touchdowns per game to enemy offenses. The 49ers have yielded top-12 fantasy quarterback finishes in five of their last six games and are allowing opponents to rack up 69.9 plays per game, the NFL’s second highest clip. The Saints are playing fast as usual, ripping off a league-high 69.9 offensive snaps per game. With Tom Brady on bye and Cam Newton visiting the Rams, Brees and Aaron Rodgers look like Week 9’s highest-ceiling quarterback plays. Brees' star is shining bright with 49ers top outside pass rusher Aaron Lynch (ankle) and RCB Rashard Robinson (ankle) ruled out for this game. … We know Saints backs have a pristine draw against a 49ers defense that has permitted a 100-yard rusher in six straight games. What we do not know is how New Orleans’ backfield will be distributed after Mark Ingram was benched for his second lost fumble in as many games in last week’s win over Seattle. Tim Hightower (27 touches, 62% snaps) took over as the primary ball carrier and looks like the favorite for Week 9 lead back work. Daniel Lasco (5 touches, 8% snaps) and Travaris Cadet (1 touch, 11% snaps) also have minor roles. After coach Sean Payton stated this week that Hightower has earned more work going forward, I’m approaching him as a high-ceiling RB2 at San Francisco. While Ingram’s floor has obviously lowered, he is still playable as an RB2/flex in season-long leagues and offers lots of DFS tournament appeal due to Ingram’s almost-certain low ownership in a best-case-scenario spot. Ingram remains the Saints’ best all-around back and isn’t going to be phased out by a win-now Saints team that still has postseason aspirations. It is certainly conceivable that two running backs pay simultaneous dividends after Jacquizz Rodgers (26-154) and Peyton Barber (12-84-1) both turned in fantasy-useful efforts against the 49ers in their last game. In LeSean McCoy (19-140-3) and Mike Gillislee (6-60-1), the Bills also had two backs hit against San Francisco in Week 6.
Brees’ target distribution since the Saints’ Week 5 bye: Willie Snead 26; Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas 24; Coby Fleener 13; Cadet 11; Ingram 7; Josh Hill 6; Brandon Coleman 5; Hightower and John Kuhn 4. … Cooks opened the year as a volatile performer, but he has scored a touchdown in every game since New Orleans’ bye week and has drawn eight or more targets in 5-of-7 games. The 49ers will have to dig into their nonexistent cornerback depth after losing RCB Rashard Robinson to an MCL injury in Week 7. … Despite running a ton of Week 8 routes at Richard Sherman, Thomas led the Saints in receiving yards (63) and beat Sherman twice for critical gains. Plus-sized receivers Kelvin Benjamin (7-108-2), Mike Evans (8-96-2), Larry Fitzgerald (6-81-2), Brice Butler (5-41-1), Terrance Williams (4-44-1), and Justin Hunter (1-30-1) have given San Francisco fits all year. Thomas stands 6-foot-3, 212 and has settled in as an every-week WR2/3 with high-scoring potential. Thomas and Donte Moncrief are my two favorite value-play wide receivers on this week’s DFS slate. … Snead doesn’t offer the ceiling of Cooks or Thomas, but he is a reliable PPR contributor with target totals of 9, 8, 7, 11, 8 in his five healthy games and at least four catches in all of them. Snead’s Week 9 matchup is okay, not great against underrated 49ers slot CB Jimmie Ward. … In chronological order, these are Fleener’s snap rates over his last five games: 77% > 64% > 56% > 57% > 34%. His playing time and number of routes run (19) were both season lows in last week’s win over Seattle, while Fleener was out-snapped by nominal No. 2 tight end Josh Hill (80%), who also ran more routes (21). I’m pulling Fleener off the board as a Week 9 fantasy play and dropping him in season-long leagues if his usage doesn’t bounce back against San Francisco.
Colin Kaepernick has proven to be a useful two-quarterback-league starter with QB15 and QB19 finishes since replacing Blaine Gabbert, amassing 150 yards on 17 scrambles in two games despite league-worst passing performances. Kaepernick is not a good NFL player, but the rushing ability gives him a floor and his ceiling will come into play if Kaepernick can run in a touchdown against the Saints. Despite an early-season bye, New Orleans has yielded an NFL-high 12 rushing touchdowns and top-12 fantasy finishes to 5-of-7 quarterbacks faced. Coming off a bye and facing a weak opponent, the 49ers’ offense should be able to move the ball more easily than usual against a Saints defense giving up the NFL’s fifth most yards per play (6.2). This is the best week to stream Kaepernick yet in a fast-paced game. … Tentatively due back from his shoulder injury against the Saints, Carlos Hyde enters Week 9 with at least 16 touches in 5-of-6 games and six rushing scores. New Orleans ranks 28th in run-defense DVOA and has given up a crisp 4.41 yards-per-carry average to enemy backs. Averaging 20 carries per game at home this year, Hyde will be a rock-solid RB2 play with RB1 upside if he gets the green light. If Hyde doesn’t get clearance after practicing in a non-contact jersey all week, the 49ers would likely resort to a three-way committee of DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis, and Shaun Draughn with Harris as the favorite to serve as chairman.
Kaepernick’s Week 6-7 target distribution: Jeremy Kerley 12; Quinton Patton 11; Torrey Smith 9; Vance McDonald and Shaun Draughn 8; Garrett Celek and Mike Davis 3; Rod Streater and DuJuan Harris 2. … Despite leading the 49ers in targets since Kap took over, Kerley’s fantasy results are 2-12-0 and 2-15-0. Regardless of matchups, I think it would take at least two straight productive games and possibly three for Kerley to become a trustworthy fantasy play. His short-area skill set doesn’t mesh with one-speed thrower Kaepernick’s at all. … Torrey went 3-76-1 on seven targets in Kaepernick’s first start, before battling in-game back pain in the second (1-17-0). He should be 100% after the bye. Smith is the only somewhat justifiable 49ers pass catcher in fantasy leagues, and he is purely a boom-bust dart throw. Smith’s matchup won’t be quite as favorable if the Saints get back top CB Delvin Breaux, who has a chance to return from his broken fibula. … McDonald logged season highs in snap rate (77%) and targets (6) in San Francisco’s pre-bye loss to Tampa Bay. His stat lines are 2-25-0 and 1-24-0 with Kaepernick at quarterback. In a week with several big-time tight ends on bye, I suppose you could do worse if pursuing a Week 9 streamer. I still would prefer Gary Barnidge, Dennis Pitta, Jason Witten, and Jack Doyle over McDonald.
Score Prediction: Saints 34, 49ers 24
DFS Players: Saints at 49ers 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.
Carolina @ Los Angeles
Vegas Projected Score: Panthers 23.75, Rams 20.75
Todd Gurley returns from his Week 8 bye for a brutal matchup with the Panthers, who piled up an unruly ten tackles for loss in last week’s dominant win over the Cardinals while shutting down David Johnson (10-24-0) on the ground. Carolina has eliminated running games all year, holding enemy backs to a combined 152-509-3 (3.35 YPC) rushing line. The Panthers rank No. 5 in run-defense DVOA and No. 4 in the NFL in tackles for loss (46). Gurley’s fantasy owners can take some solace in the fact that his floor is raised by increased passing-game involvement, having cleared 35 receiving yards in four straight games and drawn a season-high seven targets in the Rams’ pre-bye loss to the Giants. Gurley’s usage is bankable with 18-plus touches in 7-of-7 games. He is purely a volume-based RB2 play in season-long leagues. … Carolina is very much a pass-funnel defense, having yielded top-ten fantasy finishes to four of the last six quarterbacks they’ve faced. Case Keenum has been wildly erratic in the box score and ultimately awful on the field, but he has some two-quarterback-league appeal based on the opponent alone. The Rams also have good-looking matchups throughout the secondary, which we’ll get to in a minute. Of course, this is another situation where I’d be willing to stream the Panthers’ fantasy D/ST.
Keenum's Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Tavon Austin 64; Kenny Britt 48; Lance Kendricks 40; Brian Quick 32; Gurley 27. … Austin is almost impossible to forecast week to week because he is extremely inefficient with his targets but also has sporadic big-play potential and gets a ton of opportunities. He ranks 16th among NFL wide receivers in targets, and only Ty Montgomery (14) has more rushing attempts at the position than Austin’s 13. Playing Austin never gives you a comfortable feeling, but this would seem to be a better spot to play him than most considering Carolina’s pass-funnel nature and the weakness of the Panthers’ secondary personnel. Even in a game they dominated last week, the Panthers ceded fantasy-useful stat lines to three different Cardinals wide receivers. … This is also a great matchup for Britt against a Carolina defense that has been torched on the boundaries by Julio Jones (12-300-1), Brandin Cooks (7-173-1), Mike Evans (6-89-1), J.J. Nelson (8-79-2), Michael Thomas (5-78-1), Torrey Smith (3-55-1), and John Brown (4-49-1). The Panthers are allowing the NFL’s most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. … The plus draw also makes Rams third receiver Quick worthy of deep-league consideration with four straight games above 50 yards. In order, Quick’s snap rates over his last five games are 55% > 56% > 66% > 69% > 72%. … Kendricks has low-end streamer appeal with seven or more targets in three of his last four games. Carolina allows the second most fantasy points to tight ends.
This is one of the toughest matchups Cam Newton has faced to date against a Rams defense that is fresh off its bye after dealing with early-season injuries to top CB Trumaine Johnson (ankle), RE Robert Quinn (shoulder), LE William Hayes (ankle), and NT Michael Brockers (hip). Despite those critical defenders’ missed time, just 2-of-7 quarterbacks to face Los Angeles have finished above the fantasy QB16. Cam remains an every-week starter in season-long leagues, but he is a tournament-only option in DFS. It should be noted that the Panthers aggressively used Newton as a runner in last week’s win over Arizona and he was repeatedly stopped just short of the end zone on designed runs and scrambles. His fantasy results were very nearly far bigger. … Jonathan Stewart capitalized in the paint (25-95-2) versus the Cardinals and now has multiple scores in each of his last two games, all from two yards out or closer. Stewart was the best player in Carolina’s offense last week, inflicting open-field punishment and setting the tone with violent running. Since returning from an early-season hamstring injury, Stewart has touch totals of 19, 26 on snap rates of 67%, 69%. Ranked No. 8 in run-defense DVOA and holding enemy backs to 4.01 yards per carry, L.A. poses a below-average matchup for Stewart. With Carolina’s bellcow back, you are hanging your hat on J-Stew’s reliable volume and scoring chances in a dangerous offense.
Newton’s 2016 target distribution: Kelvin Benjamin 46; Greg Olsen 42; Ted Ginn 29; Corey Brown 26; Devin Funchess 22; Fozzy Whittaker 21; Stewart 6. … While getting back top CB Trumaine Johnson from a high ankle sprain will help, Sunday will mark his first game played since October 2. The Rams were hit by perimeter wideouts Mike Evans (10-132-1), John Brown (10-144), and Tyler Lockett (4-99) early in the year with Johnson healthy. On the season, Los Angeles has yielded the NFL’s fourth most catches (110) to wide receivers. With 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 6-of-7 games, Benjamin is an upside WR2 against the Rams. … All Panthers pass catchers fell short of Week 8 expectations in a game dominated by Stewart and Carolina’s defense, which returned a fumble six and sacked Carson Palmer eight times. The biggest disappointment was Olsen (1-11-0), who entered the week with at least five catches in each of the Panthers’ first six games. While Los Angeles is allowing the NFL’s tenth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, the best tight ends they have faced are Charles Clay (5-73-0) and Jimmy Graham (3-42-0), and Graham hadn’t got going when the Rams caught him in Week 2. Although nothing in particular stands out about Olsen’s matchup, he is always a strong fantasy bet as a high-volume tight end with big-play ability. Only four NFL tight ends have more red-zone-targets than Olsen (9) this year. … Ginn has cleared 60 yards in 1-of-7 games. Funchess and Corey Brown have done so in 0-of-7. While they are useful players in Carolina’s offense, none of the Panthers’ complementary wideouts are useful in fantasy.
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Rams 21
4:25PM ET Games
Indianapolis @ Green Bay
Vegas Projected Score: Packers 30.75, Colts 23.25
Colts-Packers offers obvious shootout potential between teams that both rank top 11 in points per game and top 13 in offensive plays per game with the highest total (54) on the Week 9 slate. Not only have the Colts yielded multiple touchdown passes in five straight games to Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, and Blake Bortles, but Indianapolis may be without top CB Vontae Davis (concussion) at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers has registered fantasy finishes of QB5, QB15, QB3 in his three home games this season and he has finished as a top-three fantasy quarterback in back-to-back weeks as the Packers essentially scrapped their running game in favor of a high-percentage, chain-moving passing attack. Rodgers now leads the NFC in red-zone pass attempts (48) and attempts inside the ten-yard line (28). The revised pass-centric attack will continue to make Rodgers one of the NFL’s best bets to rack up weekly touchdown passes. Green Bay was also more creative with its passing-game concepts in last week’s near upset of the Falcons, using frequent five-wide formations and man-beating route combinations. Going five wide against Indy would make a ton of sense to force more of their burnable defensive backs on the field, particularly if Davis can’t play. Don't overlook the Colts' loss of FS Mike Adams (groin), who is Indianapolis' field general on the back end. … After missing Week 8 due to complications from a sickle-cell trait, Ty Montgomery will return in a running back-receiver hybrid role where he piled up 25 targets in Weeks 6-7 and produced 230 total yards on 32 touches. Montgomery has been extremely active in scoring position as both a runner and pass catcher, while the Colts have given up the NFL’s seventh most receptions (41) and sixth most receiving yards (408) to enemy backs. Off the Week 9 injury report, we need to immediately reinsert Montgomery as a high-floor, high-ceiling RB2/WR2 play in this probable shootout. ... I've seen far worse desperation flex options than Packers FB Aaron Ripkowski, who turned seven touches into 33 yards in last week's loss to Atlanta and played 52% of Green Bay's offensive snaps. 5 of Ripkowski's 12 rushing attempts have come inside the red zone this season, and he drew a target inside the ten-yard line against the Falcons.
Rodgers’ targets in two games with Montgomery at running back: Randall Cobb 26; Montgomery 25; Davante Adams 19; Jordy Nelson 11; Jeff Janis 7; Richard Rodgers 4. … Especially with Montgomery hoarding so much passing-game usage, trying to figure out which Packers receivers will produce is going to be difficult in a given week. Late-week indications were that Cobb was unlikely to play after missing Week 8 with a hamstring injury. Cobb was officially listed as questionable. … Last week, we focused less on Desmond Trufant’s coverage and more on Nelson’s high-scoring role in a projected high-scoring game against Atlanta. Nelson paid off with 4-94-1 on nine targets. We should probably do the same regarding Jordy and Davis. … Adams has been extremely efficient with a 79.1% catch rate, 87.6-yard average, and four touchdowns over his last five games, clearly earning the trust of Rodgers in Green Bay’s pass-dependent offense. Adams is a good fantasy bet regardless, but his outlook would further improve if Davis were active and assigned to Nelson. … Janis played well on 94% of Green Bay’s Week 8 offensive snaps, catching 4-of-4 targets for 30 yards and a touchdown. Janis should continue to work into sub-packages if Cobb can't play. The Packers' Nos. 4 and 5 receivers are rookies Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis. If forced to choose between one of Green Bay's Nos. 3-5 wideouts, Janis would be the obvious choice. All of this is contingent on Cobb not playing, of course.
Despite facing a Chiefs team that entered Week 8 ranked dead last in the NFL in sacks and quarterback hits, Andrew Luck was dropped for a whopping six sacks and 12 hits while losing nearly 100 yards and a long Donte Moncrief touchdown pass to penalties at the line of scrimmage. Indianapolis’ sieve-like line will continue to be the biggest obstacle for Luck’s fantasy outlook. It has failed Luck against even the NFL’s worst pass-rushing teams. Luck has still accounted for multiple touchdown passes in five straight games while supplementing his box scores with five-plus rushing attempts in four straight weeks. While the Colts’ pass protection remains a threat to his floor, Luck’s ceiling is lofty in this probable high-scoring affair. Indy’s near-certain inability to run the ball on Green Bay’s stout defensive front will force almost everything onto Luck’s Week 9 plate. … The Packers have held enemy backs to a combined 143-480-2 (3.36 YPC) rushing line this season, and 112-321-2 (2.87 YPC) if you leave out their Week 6 game against the Cowboys, who run the ball successfully on everyone. In a game where the Colts seem unlikely to experience much positive script, this is a concerning matchup for Frank Gore after he set a five-game low in snap rate (48%) and a season low in touches (11) in last week’s loss to Kansas City. Typically a high-floor RB2 play in season-long leagues, Gore is best viewed as a fringe RB2/flex option this week.
Luck’s target distribution in Donte Moncrief’s two full games played: T.Y. Hilton 18; Moncrief 16; Phillip Dorsett 11; Gore 9; Jack Doyle 7; Dwayne Allen 6; Robert Turbin 5; Erik Swoope 3. … Hilton committed two Week 8 drops, had a 40-yard reception wiped out by penalty, and missed two drives due to a hamstring scare, all resulting in a colossal bust (1-20-0). A Week 9 bounce back is likely for Hilton against a Green Bay secondary that is using backup safety Micah Hyde at slot corner due to Quinten Rollins’ multi-week groin injury. The Packers were diced up by Falcons slot WR Mohamed Sanu (9-84-1) in Week 8 and Cowboys slot WR Cole Beasley (6-58-2) in Week 6. Hilton runs nearly 60% of his routes in the slot. … Immediately restored to full-time usage against the Chiefs, Moncrief logged 89% of Indy’s Week 8 snaps and led the team in targets and receiving yards, also catching his seventh touchdown pass over Moncrief’s last nine full games with Luck. Moncrief has been Luck’s go-to guy in scoring position for an extended stretch. He is a great WR2 play in this potential shootout. … Dorsett has cleared 35 yards once since Week 1 and it came on a blown-coverage 64-yard touchdown catch in Week 4 at Jacksonville. A low-volume role player in the Colts’ offense, Dorsett’s only real Week 9 appeal is his mere field presence in this possible high-scoring game. Dorsett returned from his two-week hamstring injury in last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs and drew five targets on 85% of the snaps. … The Packers’ inside linebackers are vulnerable in coverage, and they have been forced to devote more safety resources to help guard against receivers due to an injury-depleted cornerback unit. They gave up a 7-60 receiving line on 7 targets to Falcons tight ends last week. Doyle leads the Colts in red-zone targets (9) and targets inside the five-yard line (3). While his projection is lowered by Moncrief’s return, Doyle is a far better streamer at Lambeau than he was against Eric Berry’s shutdown tight end coverage last week. Albeit not quite as attractive if Dwayne Allen (ankle) returns, Doyle would still be playable in season-long leagues.
Score Prediction: Packers 34, Colts 27
Tennessee @ San Diego
Vegas Projected Score: Chargers 26, Titans 21
Back home after last week’s near upset of Denver, Philip Rivers takes on a downward-trending Titans pass defense that has conceded three straight top-ten quarterback finishes to Cody Kessler (QB9), Andrew Luck (QB1), and Blake Bortles (QB4) while surrendering over 330 passing yards in all three games. Rivers has been a top-12 fantasy quarterback in each of his last three games not facing the Broncos. Tennessee has fallen to No. 24 in pass-defense DVOA and DC Dick LeBeau’s pass rush has stopped working over the last two games. … Continuing to log elite RB1-level usage, Melvin Gordon turned in his year-best rushing performance (23-111-0) against Denver and tied a season high with seven passing-game targets, playing 80% of the Chargers’ snaps. San Diego’s wide receiver injuries ensure Gordon will remain the high-volume centerpiece of an offense that has run the NFL’s seventh most plays (520) and 11th most run plays (205) despite ranking 27th in yards per rush (3.67). The Titans have played stout run defense this year, ranking No. 9 in DVOA and holding enemy running backs to a combined 146-552-3 (3.78 YPC) rushing line. Still, Gordon’s workloads make him matchup proof in season-long leagues, and he is in play in DFS as a home-favorite running back with multi-TD potential.
Rivers' target distribution since Keenan Allen’s Week 1 ACL tear: Travis Benjamin 57; Tyrell Williams 52; Dontrelle Inman 38; Antonio Gates 36; Gordon 34; Hunter Henry 32; Dexter McCluster 11. … Benjamin and Williams will apparently both play through knee injuries in a quality matchup against the Titans, whose secondary has been dusted for big games by Allen Hurns (7-98-1), T.Y. Hilton (7-133-1), Terrelle Pryor (9-75-2), Will Fuller (7-81-1), Michael Crabtree (8-102), Marvin Jones (8-118), and Stefon Diggs (7-103). Tennessee has surrendered a league-high 33 passing plays of 20-plus yards (33). The primary concern with San Diego’s wideouts is their seemingly increasingly shaky health. … The Titans gave up 11-129-1 to Colts tight ends in Week 7 and 12-92-1 to Jaguars tight ends in Week 8. Gates’ snap rates over the past four games are 35% > 47% > 51% > 68% compared to Henry’s 83% > 68% > 63% > 56%. Gates has led the Chargers in targets in back-to-back weeks (10, 9), while Henry drew target totals of 3 and 4 in those games. As Henry is now battling a knee injury, he is a very risky fantasy investment with his usage in descent. Gates has played in only six games, yet still leads the Chargers in red-zone targets (10) and targets inside the five-yard line (5). Gates continues to look slow and plodding on the field, but he’s looked that way for years. He’s as good a bet for a touchdown as any tight end on the slate. … Slot man Inman quietly led San Diego in Week 8 receiving yards (72), drawing seven targets. Inman would come into play if Benjamin and/or Williams surprisingly misses this game. Both are listed as questionable but had full practice participation on Friday.
Friday Update: Henry (knee) was ruled out on Friday, ensuring Gates will operate as the Chargers' primary tight end against a Titans defense that is struggling to contain the position. With Williams and Benjamin also battling uncertain health, Gates is shaping up as one of the top tight end plays on the week. He is attractive in DFS, where Gates is severely underpriced considering his recent high-volume usage and high-leverage scoring-position role.
Expected to play following last Thursday’s toe-injury scare, DeMarco Murray enters Week 9 with touch counts of 21, 27, 32, 21, 28, 22 over his last six games and eight all-purpose TDs in eight weeks. Although they are 20th in run-defense DVOA, the Chargers pose a below-average matchup for ground games and have held enemy backs to a combined 160-621-10 (3.88 YPC) rushing line on the year. San Diego’s front dominated Denver’s offensive line in Week 8, piling up six tackles for loss and limiting Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs to 21-58-1 (2.76) rushing. The Bolts remain vulnerable to backs in the passing game, yielding NFL highs in catches (66) and receiving yards (501) to the position. Murray is eighth among running backs in targets (36) and seventh in receptions (197). San Diego will also be shorthanded at inside linebacker after losing Denzel Perryman (hamstring) and Jatavis Brown (knee) to Week 8 injuries. ILB Manti Te’o (Achilles’) is already out for the year. … While it would make a ton of sense for the Titans to give Derrick Henry more involvement with Murray showing signs of weardown, coach Mike Mularkey said after last week’s win over the Jags that Henry’s workload would remain game-flow dependent. Still, season-long fantasy owners in bye-week binds could do much worse than streaming a talented No. 2 back in a run-heavy offense. Henry has flashed beastly running ability since the preseason and has caught 9-of-11 targets for 107 yards. He’s reached double-digit touches in just 3-of-8 games, but I would bet on Henry topping ten carries this week. … Just 1-of-5 quarterbacks to face San Diego in the last five weeks has finished inside the top-15 fantasy scorers, while Marcus Mariota enters this game hot with QB3, QB5, QB13, and QB12 finishes over the last month. In a game with some high-scoring potential on both sides, I’m approaching Mariota as a solid-if-unspectacular Week 9 quarterback start. Mariota's outlook will take an obvious hit if Delanie Walker (groin, questionable) can't play.
Mariota’s targets over the last month: Delanie Walker 23; Kendall Wright 19; Rishard Matthews 18; Murray 15; Tajae Sharpe 14; Henry 8. … Walker’s usage and results have been much less consistent than last season’s in a run-committed offense that spreads the ball around in the passing game, but when healthy he is still one of the best weekly tight end plays in fantasy. San Diego has yielded the NFL’s 13th most catches (38) and 15th most yards (430) to tight ends. The Chargers’ inside linebacker injuries enhance Walker’s matchup. Walker pulled his groin in Thursday's practice, however, and had no participation on Friday. He is expected to be a game-time decision. … Wright has yet to play more than 50% of the snaps in any of his five 2016 appearances, but that should change due to Andre Johnson’s retirement. Running nearly 90% of his routes inside, Wright will face off with up-and-down Chargers slot corner Brandon Flowers. Still a rotational receiver seeing inconsistent volume, Wright’s playmaking ability alone gives him some appeal as a bye-week WR3/flex play in season-long PPR leagues. … Sharpe hasn’t cleared 60 yards since Week 1 and logged a season-low 55% snap rate in last week’s win over Jacksonville after Mularkey called him out for taking a “step back.” I want to see Sharpe do something notable before putting any faith in him. … Matthews has hit pay dirt in three of Tennessee’s last four games and quietly leads all Titans wideouts in receiving yards (357). He was finally promoted to a full-time player against the Jaguars, handling a season-high 88% of the Titans’ offensive snaps. If you are forced into starting a Titans wide receiver this week, Matthews looks like your highest-floor option and best bet for a touchdown. Matthews has a narrow lead in red-zone targets (4) over both Walker (3) and Sharpe (3). Wright hasn’t been targeted in the red area yet.
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Titans 24
Sunday Night Football
Denver @ Oakland
Vegas Projected Score: Raiders 22, Broncos 22
Although Devontae Booker struggled in terms of rushing efficiency (19-54-1) in his first start against an underrated San Diego defensive front, Booker handled legitimate bellcow usage with 24 touches on 83% of the snaps despite an early-game shoulder scare. Booker lost a fourth-quarter fumble on a reception near the goal line, but I thought Chargers ILB Korey Toomer deserved the most credit for making a great play to pop the ball loose. No. 2 back Kapri Bibbs played only 12% of the downs, rushing twice for a gain of five and a loss of one. Booker is a good bet for more rushing success in Week 9 against a Raiders run defense that ranks No. 25 in DVOA and has been hit for a combined 71-341-3 (4.80 YPC) rushing line by enemy backs over its last three games. Booker is a volume-based RB2 with RB1 upside in a plus draw. Stabilizing Booker’s weekly floor is his passing-game usage, where Booker’s six Week 8 targets and five catches were the most by any Broncos running back in a game this season. … Game-manager Trevor Siemian has failed to capitalize on favorable matchups all year, finishing as the QB29 against Carolina, QB25 against Indianapolis, and QB17, QB27 in two meetings with San Diego. He has one finish above QB17 through seven starts with just one multi-touchdown effort. The Raiders have been atrocious in pass defense for most of the season and may be missing RCB Sean Smith (shoulder) on Sunday night, but there’s no real reason to believe Siemian will take advantage. He’s just a two-quarterback-league play.
Seimian's 2016 targets: Emmanuel Sanders 55; Demaryius Thomas 53; Jordan Norwood 19; Virgil Green 18; Bennie Fowler and Booker 13. … The Raiders used LCB David Amerson to shadow Mike Evans (4-50-0) on perimeter routes last week and may do the same against Thomas. Amerson is a quality NFL corner, but not quite a shutdown force. Thomas has five-plus receptions in seven straight games and is a worthwhile WR2 in season-long leagues. … Sanders has the better on-paper draw against banged-up Smith or fill-in RCB T.J. Carrie, who gave up a 42-yard reception to Bucs WR Adam Humphries last week. Sanders continues to be the Broncos’ go-to guy in scoring position, where he is tied for the NFL lead in red-zone targets (14) and leads the league in targets inside the ten-yard line (10). On the season, Oakland has allowed the league’s fourth most catches (111) and second most yards (1,570) to opposing wide receivers. … Green finally came alive in last week’s win over the Chargers, turning six targets into a 4-55-0 receiving line on 74% of the snaps, Green’s second highest playing-time clip of the season. The Raiders are allowing the seventh most yards (486) in the league to tight ends. Green is worth a look as a deep-league streamer.
Week 8 DFS tournament winner Derek Carr will encounter a much stiffer Week 9 test against a Broncos pass defense that has not allowed an opposing quarterback to finish above QB15 since Week 1, notably checking Andrew Luck (QB29), Andy Dalton (QB25), Jameis Winston (QB25), Matt Ryan (QB15), and Philip Rivers (QB23, QB20) along the way. Carr’s fantasy finishes in last year’s two meetings with Broncos DC Wade Phillips’ defense were QB21, QB24. Carr’s fantasy owners need to dive into the streamer pool this week. … The Raiders’ backfield devolved back into a four-way timeshare in last week’s win over Tampa Bay. Latavius Murray led the unit in touches (16) and snaps (38%), but Jalen Richard (7 touches, 18%), DeAndre Washington (5, 30%), and Jamize Olawale (3, 26%) all had meaningful involvement. It should be noted that Denver has struggled in run defense this year, ranking No. 14 in DVOA and yielding a combined 48-247-0 (5.15 YPC) rushing line to Texans and Chargers backs over the past two weeks. Still, Murray has the look of a touchdown-dependent RB2/flex option as the mere lead back in Oakland’s four-deep committee.
Carr’s Weeks 1-8 targets: Amari Cooper 80; Michael Crabtree 75; Seth Roberts 44; Clive Walford 27; Murray 23; Richard 20; Washington 15. … No receiver ever has a good matchup when facing Denver, but Cooper looks like the best Week 9 bet. Cooper runs most of his routes at right corners and will draw RCB Bradley Roby, who is super talented but plays with some gambling tendencies and has PFF’s lowest coverage grade in the Broncos’ cornerback unit. In the case of Cooper as a season-long fantasy start, you are banking on his high-volume usage, incredibly quick feet, and blur-like acceleration against Denver’s man-coverage scheme. Cooper has drawn nine-plus targets in 6-of-8 games and is averaging 117.3 yards per game over the last month. … Just three wide receivers have cleared 60 yards versus the Broncos through eight games. Travis Benjamin (3-44-1) became the first to score a touchdown since Kelvin Benjamin did so against Denver in Week 1, catching a deflected pass in the back of the end zone last week. Crabtree’s 2015 stat lines against the Broncos were 4-54-0 and 4-19-0. Usually a strong WR2 play, Crabtree needs to be downgraded to a fringe WR3. Crabtree's outlook upticks mildly with Aqib Talib (back) ruled out, although fill-in LCB Lorenzo Doss was terrific in last week’s win over San Diego, allowing just 29 yards on six targets with two pass breakups. … Slot man Roberts can be ignored against Broncos shutdown slot CB Chris Harris. … The Broncos are sometimes vulnerable to tight ends, but Walford is only playing around 60% of the Raiders’ snaps and has seen fewer than five targets in six straight games. Last week, Walford finished with 3-31-0 and was out-produced by Mychal Rivera (3-36-1) in a game where Carr dropped back to pass 61 times and flamed the Bucs for 513 yards.
Score Prediction: Raiders 20, Broncos 17
Monday Night Football
Buffalo @ Seattle
Vegas Projected Score: Seahawks 25.5, Bills 18.5
Bills-Seahawks sets up as a low-scoring affair between struggling, injury-marred offenses and two of the NFL’s top defenses in a game with Week 9’s fourth lowest game total (44). And I would bet the under. Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 4, has one multi-touchdown game on the season, and has flopped in two pristine matchups against the Falcons (QB22) and Saints (QB24) since Seattle’s Week 5 bye. Just 2-of-8 quarterbacks to face the Bills have finished inside the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks. As Wilson is battling knee and ankle injuries and laying box-score eggs as both a passer and runner, it’s to the point in season-long leagues that we need to make Wilson prove himself before starting him, and consider it a positive if he produces even if he is on our bench. … Already shutting down the run, the Bills got back NT Marcell Dareus last week and stamped out New England’s ground game, holding LeGarrette Blount and James White to a 20-58-1 (2.90 YPC) rushing line. New Orleans’ Week 8 time-of-possession dominance (36:24) skewed Seattle’s results, but it was concerning to see Christine Michael log season lows in touches (11) and snaps (51%) after getting off to a hot start on the first two drives. Passing-down specialist C.J. Prosise set season highs in playing time (42%) and touches (8) and led the team in receiving (4-80), albeit largely on the strength of a 43-yard trick-play pass thrown by WR/TE Tanner McEvoy. On Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll promised Prosise’s role has increased. Prosise is suddenly playable in PPR leagues as a bye-week flex. Michael remains the favorite for lead back work, but we need to scale back expectations in this tough matchup after his workload was reduced.
Wilson's targets since Seattle's Week 5 bye: Jimmy Graham 24; Doug Baldwin 20; Jermaine Kearse 16; Tyler Lockett 11; Michael 8; Prosise 7; Paul Richardson 5. … Seahawks skill players flopped against the Saints because they barely had the ball. While yards and points may still be tough to come by against the Bills’ defense, Seattle should have the ball much more this week. None of their pass catchers’ matchups stand out, however. Buffalo is yielding the NFL’s sixth fewest catches (26) and 12th fewest yards (372) to tight ends, although Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett combined for 9-144-1 receiving against them last week and Graham can be similarly tough to handle. Graham still has at least eight targets in four of his last five games and is a top-five TE1 start. … Baldwin has been frustrating lately, but his Week 9 matchup is unimposing against a Bills defense that got hit by Julian Edelman (4-37-1) and Danny Amendola (3-29-1) in the slot last week, Jarvis Landry (5-78) in Week 7, and Tavon Austin (7-59) two games before that. Seattle’s passing offense has been slumping, but Graham and Baldwin are high-end NFL players we want to keep betting on in season-long leagues. … In chronological order, Lockett’s snap rates since Seattle’s bye are 64% > 78% > 62% with corresponding target totals of 5 > 2 > 4. Lockett’s usage renders him nothing more than a long-shot dart throw, but it should be noted that Buffalo has been torched by a perimeter wideout in each of its last three games, yielding 3-76-1 to Torrey Smith, 5-100-1 to Kenny Stills, and 4-91-1 to Chris Hogan. Bills RCB Stephon Gilmore is having a rough season.
Season-long owners forced to start Tyrod Taylor at Seattle will have to hang their hats on his rushing production. The Seahawks have allowed just five touchdown passes in seven games and just one multi-touchdown-pass game since midway through the 2015 season. Taylor’s legs have indeed kept him afloat in tough matchups and he enters Week 9 with at least five rushing attempts in 7-of-8 games. Taylor has shown a safe floor with top-16 fantasy quarterback finishes in six of the last seven weeks. It’s obviously fair to question his ceiling in this difficult draw. Taylor is viable only in two-quarterback leagues. … As you might expect, Seattle has been lights out against the run this year, ranking No. 2 in run-defense DVOA and stymieing enemy backs for a combined 165-558-2 (3.38 YPC) rushing line. As a LeSean McCoy owner in several spots, I selfishly hope the Bills give him another game off and hold McCoy out through their Week 10 bye so that he can be healthy for the stretch run. In McCoy’s Week 8 absence, Mike Gillislee (15 touches, 55% snaps) operated as Buffalo’s lead back with Jonathan Williams (5 touches, 24%) and Reggie Bush (4, 33%) changing the pace. Assuming McCoy is out, Gillislee is playable in season-long leagues on the lone premise that we know he will get touches. On Friday, however, Bills coach Rex Ryan strongly indicated that he expects McCoy to play.
Taylor’s 2016 targets in games where Robert Woods has played but Sammy Watkins has not: Woods 37; Charles Clay 27; Marquise Goodwin 20; McCoy 15; Walt Powell 14; Justin Hunter 8; Gillislee 5. … Although he is technically Buffalo’s de-facto No. 1 receiver, Woods has cleared 60 yards in 1-of-5 games missed by Watkins. Woods runs most of his routes in the slot, where Seattle has been extremely stingy this year. Larry Fitzgerald is the only slot receiver to top 60 yards against the Seahawks, and he needed 14 targets to finish at 70 scoreless yards. Seattle most recently checked Willie Snead (6-56-0). Woods is always a weak play and this week is no different. … Same goes for Clay against a Seattle defense yielding the NFL’s fourth fewest catches (25) and seventh fewest yards (285) to tight ends. … All you need to know about the rest of Buffalo’s receivers is that they were desperate enough to beg Percy Harvin out of retirement. In Week 8, the Bills were literally led in targets by something literally named Walt Powell.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 20, Bills 16