This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Williams a Lock?
Dan Hindery: While Williams is a solid option, he’s nowhere near a lock at what looks like a non-bargain price. First, Oakland has a strong run defense that is top three in the NFL in giving up only 3.6 yards per attempt against. Second, Pittsburgh is without two of their better starting offensive linemen and are not a top notch run blocking unit at the moment. Third, there is a ton of value at running back on DraftKings this week. For example, Jeremy Langford ($4,000) steps in for Matt Forte and faces arguably the league’s worst defense against running backs, the Chargers. Jonathan Stewart ($4,300) faces a mediocre Green Bay run defense that was just shredded by the Broncos. Ronnie Hillman ($4,600) is coming off of a big game and has another nice matchup looming against the Colts. All three of those guys (plus others like Lamar Miller) are significantly cheaper than Williams. For just a few dollars more, Doug Martin ($5,700) and Chris Ivory ($5,900) look like better options as well.
Overall, Williams is the 11th-highest running back this weekend on DraftKings. The injury happened early enough that there just isn’t a big discount and Williams is priced fairly as what he probably is against Oakland: a low-end RB1 option.
John Lee: I have to agree with Dan on this one. DeAngelo Williams will be a fade for me this week. At $5,500, he will need to score at least 17 fantasy points to reach cash game value, which is far from a lock against a Raiders defense that ranks second in the league in defending the run (82.9 rushing yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry). Williams will certainly see a lot of volume with the likes of Jordan Todman and Isaiah Pead backing him up, but substantial volume will not necessarily equate to solid fantasy production against the Raiders, who have not given up more than 35 yards to any running back in the previous three games. Despite the poor matchup, I expect to see sizable ownership numbers for Williams because the less sharp DFS players will see his 5.0 yards per carry average and expect him to perform similarly against the historically poor Raiders defense.
John Mamula: Williams was the clear number one waiver wire priority in season-long leagues this week and will be a solid DraftKings play later this season. But this is not the week to target him with a $5,500 DraftKings salary.
Dan and John nailed it with their analysis. As John stated, Oakland has the second-best rush defense in the league.The Steelers will look to attack the Raiders through the air. The Raiders pass defense is second-worst in the league allowing 302.1/passing yards per game. Target Ben Roethlisberger priced as the 10th-highest DraftKings quarterback this week at $6,600. He should have a bounce back game with a single digit ownership percentage.
Will Grant: It seems we're all on the same page with Williams this week. I doubt I'll have him in any of my lineups. I think he's going to be overowned actually as people jump on the bandwagon, hoping they have found a bargain.
To me, if you're looking for that "next man up" type of thing, I'd look at Jeremy Langford from Chicago. He's at a much better price point ($4,000) and without any backup behind him, you know he's going to be every possible carry that the Bears have this week. He has reasonable hands as well (despite the big drop last week), and he's facing the Chargers on Monday night. San Diego is ranked 27th against the run, allowing over 124 yards per game on the ground, so the match-up is a solid one for Langford to reach value. Finally, you can toss him into the flex position this week and swap him out if needed on Monday Night.
Chris Feery: I agree with everyone so far. Williams is far from a lock this week and will probably be very highly-owned. Also, as the others have mentioned, the better approach to attacking the Raiders would be through the air, making Roethlisberger and company an appealing target. Will just mentioned a great alternative in Jeremy Langford at $4,000, and there are few others we can look at in the same price range as Williams. A little to the north on the salary scale, we have Doug Martin at $5,700. Martin was underwhelming last week, but prior to that he had scored 23+ points for three consecutive weeks. As a cheaper alternative, consider Danny Woodhead at $4,800. Woodhead is another player coming off of a down game, but could see a nice bump in opportunities as the Chargers sort through their injury issues.
With New Orleans and the New York Giants having allowed huge passing performances in Week 8, are they big targets for DFS players in Week 9? The Saints host Tennessee, and the Giants head to Tampa Bay.
Dan Hindery: I’m passing on both Winston and Mariota this week. Despite getting torched by the Giants for 49 points, the Tennessee team total is under 20 points. Vegas is not expecting much offense from the Titans, even against the shaky Saints defense. While I like Winston slightly more, Cameron Brate led the Buccaneers in receiving in Week 8. The receiving corps is really beat up (leaving Winston with a real lack of targets), and the Tampa Bay run game has been surprisingly strong over the past month too.
The inexpensive quarterback I am targeting this week is Derek Carr ($5,500). While the Steelers defense has been surprisingly good, it still shows occasional vulnerabilities against the pass and will have no answers for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Plus, Carr has played exceptionally well the past two weeks, and the Raiders offense is really humming. The Raiders also enter the game as underdogs and could have a favorable game script should Pittsburgh jump out to an early lead.
John Mamula: The New Orleans Saints/New York Giants matchup was the perfect storm for a fantasy explosion. I do not expect the Titans or Buccaneers to have the offense to challenge the Saints or Giants this week. It is best to take a wait and see approach this week with Marcus Mariota, who is returning from a knee injury. Jameis Winston has been challenged by injuries with his receiving corps. I prefer to hold off until they get healthy and back on the same page.
The low-priced quarterback that I am targeting is Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,200) vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fitzpatrick left last week's game with an injury to his thumb on his non-throwing hand. It was diagnosed as a torn thumb ligament and will require surgery at some point. However, Fitzpatrick practiced fully on Wednesday not having any issues with the thumb. With it being on his non-throwing hand, he will be fine for a full workload. Jacksonville is ranked the eighth-worst pass defense in the league this season. Before last week's injury, Fitzpatrick had two passing touchdowns in five out of six games. Fitzpatrick is a solid value at $5,200.
John Lee: ...and this is why we play DFS! I agree with Dan that Carr is intriguing in the same price range as Winston and Mariota, but I am not fond of John's Fitzpatrick selection. Both will face suspect secondaries, but I suspect the Jets will try to protect Fitzpatrick and any chance they have at a wild-card bid this year; if he aggravates the thumb injury while sitting in the pocket looking for a receiver against the Jaguars, nobody is going to forgive first year head coach for allowing it to happen. Instead, I expect a run-first approach from the Jets, although I do agree it is a tough matchup against a very stout rush defense.
Regarding Winston and Mariota, I think both are worth a look in GPP format. Neither should be highly-owned because Winston has but a single legitimate receiver (Mike Evans), who was largely shut down last week, and Mariota is coming off an injury on a team with no identity. Both have fantastic matchups against porous secondaries, however, and the gamescripts set up well for each quarterback. I have no problems rolling out a Winston/Evans stack on DraftKings and a Mariota/Green-Beckham stack will only cost you $8,400; the former tandem has the better chance of reaching value, while the latter stack will set your roster apart from 99% of the other entries in the contest.
Will Grant: John (Mamula) hit the analysis right on the head. Nothing left to add on Winston or Mariota.
I'll toss out Jay Cuter as a potential "bargain" priced QB this week against the Chargers on Monday night. Cutler has thrown just one interception in his last three games, and he faces an average pass defense in San Diego, who only has four defensive interceptions for the season. Cutler isn't exciting or flashy, but at just $5,200, you want your quarterback to stay clean and toss a touchdown or two. You don't normally think of Jay Cutler as "turnover free," but the Bears have changed their offense; Cutler isn't forcing the ball as much as he has in previous seasons. On Monday against the Chargers, he has a decent chance to put up solid numbers, and he's just as much of a bargain as Winston or Mariota.
Chris Feery: Awesome feedback on Winston and Mariota so far, and I’ll be taking a pass on both of them as well. Of the two, Mariota is the more intriguing for this week due to the chance for inspired play from the team as a whole due to their coaching change. As others have mentioned, the current lack of receiver depth in Tampa Bay makes Winston a risky proposition.
On the low cost quarterback front, I agree that a case can be made for Carr, Fitzpatrick, and Cutler this week. One more name to add to the list is Tyrod Taylor at $5,300. It sounds like he’ll be back to full strength this week and if so, we are looking at some solid upside for a low price. He threw three touchdowns against the Dolphins in their last matchup in Week 3 and could be a nice sleeper play for Week 9.
San Francisco failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second week in a row in Week 8 and lost another player (Reggie Bush) to injury. Now, Colin Kaepernick has been benched. Despite being on the road, should we just pencil in the Atlanta defense into our cash game lineups?
Dan Hindery: The Falcons do look like a relatively safe choice, but I am not convinced that their upside is quite on par with some of the other options this week. There is a huge correlation in D/ST scoring and pass-rush success. And the Falcons have only notched 10 sacks in eight games. Not only do the sacks add directly to the D/ST point total, but pressure on the quarterback greatly increases the odds of turnovers and defensive scores.
The choice of defense for Week 9 is going to be a tough one, and I do not know if a real consensus play will end up emerging by Sunday morning or if there will be a cluster of defenses all ranked similarly. My shortlist top-five for Week 9 includes:
New Orleans ($2,200) - Sure they just got torched for 49 points. But the Tennessee offense is a mess, and they are projected to score fewer than 20 points this week by Vegas. Perhaps it is a better GPP play than a cash game option, but the extra $1,000 or so in savings compared to the top defenses could really provide a boost to a cash game lineup as well. There is also an interesting precedent here; Houston got torched for 42 first half points in Week 7 and came back against Tennessee in Week 8 and held them to six points, notched seven sacks, and collected three turnovers.
New England ($3,300) - New England is favored by 14 points, which means Washington will almost certainly be playing from behind and forced to go pass-heavy. Kirk Cousins has been turnover-prone throughout his career. New England has been one of the better D/ST options all season with 26 sacks in seven games. But they have yet to score a touchdown, which is the only thing that has kept them from having a big week. At some point, they are due to find the end zone.
St. Louis ($3,500) and Minnesota ($3,100) - The game total is under 40 points with the Vikings a slight favorite at home. Both defenses look to be in play. The Rams defensive line has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses all season long and have been adept at causing turnovers (13 in just seven games) and getting to the quarterback (26 sacks). The Vikings have been solid in both categories as well with 18 sacks and nine takeaways. Both teams have a pair of D/ST touchdowns as well. Of the two, I lean slightly towards Minnesota because Nick Foles is less steady than Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings have the home crowd, and they are slightly cheaper.
Denver ($3,000) - Playing a D/ST against Andrew Luck still scares me. Luck has shown an ability to turn it on late in games the past two weeks that hints that the Colts offense may be due for a breakout performance at some point. On the other hand, the Broncos just shut down the Packers and have been on an incredible run this season. They seem truly matchup-proof. Four D/ST touchdowns, 29 sacks, and 17 turnovers through just seven games is incredible production. It's hard to bet against them, even traveling to Indianapolis -- especially with the Colts having a short week after playing nearly five quarters worth of football in Carolina Monday night.
John Mamula: The Rams defense has been the consensus chalk play over the past couple of weeks. This week, there are a number of routes that we can go at defense. Atlanta scares me for the same reason that Dan listed above. Atlanta's defense does not get enough pressure on the opposing quarterback to produce sacks and turnovers. While they will keep San Francisco off the scoreboard, they do not have the ceiling that I am looking for in a defense.
I will be targeting the Broncos defense every week moving forward until they disappoint. Holding Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards last week was beyond impressive. The Broncos defense has produced at least 9.0 DraftKings points every week this season. They are an elite defense that has a high floor and high ceiling every time they step on the field. Andrew Luck has multiple interceptions in five out of six games this season. Last year, Andrew Luck would scare me in this matchup. That is not the case this season.
Will Grant: Dan broke down alternatives to Atlanta pretty well. There's no way I'm sticking the Saints in my lineup after watching them give up almost 50 to the Giants last week, but he makes solid points about the train wreck in Tennessee.
I also like the Jets this week. They didn't perform against the Raiders last week and face a team coming off a bye week, but Jacksonville is averaging just 342 yards per game of offense (22nd in the league). And the Jets will be at home. Their pricing isn't great at $3,100 this week, but I think they have a chance to reach value against a Jaguars offense that has struggled at times this season.
John Lee: If I need the salary space, I will have no reservations slotting the $2,200 Saints defense into my lineup against the Titans. That decision would be based more upon the salary than the level of comfort with the pick; at $2,200, you only need six or seven points to reach cash game value, which is a few sacks and a turnover or two without giving up more than 28 points. Against a team that is currently allowing the third most sacks per game in the league, even the Saints defense is a reasonable selection this week.
Regarding the Falcons, sure, if the cap space is there, you could go in worse directions that going against a very poor quarterback who has a hobbled primary receiver, no tight end options, a terrible offensive line, and is starting an undrafted free agent running back with five career carries. That said, I do not think the Falcons are a "plug-and-play" option as the team defense position because other, less-expensive options are available (i.e., Denver, NY Jets, New Orleans all fit the bill).
Chris Feery: John (Lee) summed it up pretty well: the Falcons deserve consideration but are by no means a plug and play option. This may be a good week to pay up for one of the top-tier defenses like the Broncos or Jets. We saw how well the Broncos were able to hold Aaron Rodgers and company in check last week. Their prospects against a struggling offense are quite enticing. The Jets are a strong bounce back candidate after a rough trip out west. The Patriots also deserve consideration at a price of $3,300. We can expect them to be up pretty big against Washington and in a good position to force some turnovers.
Of the defenses priced less than $3,000, the Bills and Saints look like the best options for this week. The Bills are coming off of their bye week, playing at home, and looking to keep pace in the chase for a Wild Card berth. Look for Rex Ryan to have the troops properly motivated for a key divisional matchup. The Saints are intriguing due to price and playing at home against a struggling offense. That being said, the Titans coaching change makes me nervous. As we saw with the Dolphins this year, there’s always the chance for a very inspired performance immediately following a change.
We talk a lot about scripts and using Vegas lines as a guide for our decisions. However, not every game goes according to plan. Which Week 9 game(s) do you see going against the way Vegas is projecting them?
Dan Hindery: I understand why Vegas is projecting the Steelers-Raiders game to be approximately 27-21, Steelers. The Pittsburgh defense hasn’t allowed over 23 points since Week 1 against the Patriots. They just held a talented Cincinnati offense in check in Week 8. The Raiders are traveling east for an early kick. But my gut feeling is that the Raiders offense has more success against the Steelers defense than Vegas thinks. I either see this game turning into a high-scoring shootout or the Raiders pulling off the upset on the strength of another strong offensive performance.
The Raiders didn’t punt until midway through the fourth quarter against a very good Jets defense in Week 8. They did miss a field goal, but scored on every other drive. For the second week in a row, they made it look easy on offense with everything clicking. The offensive line was able to handle the exotic blitzes that Todd Bowles and the Jets defense threw at them, which bodes well for their ability to deal with the multitude of third-down blitz looks the Steelers will use. If my hunch is correct, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree should benefit and exceed expectations in Week 9.
John Mamula: I was surprised to see the Vegas projection of 49 total points in the Chicago Bears-San Diego Chargers game. I see this game coming in about six or seven points fewer than what Vegas is projecting. I do not see either offense producing as they have done in the past without their key playmakers.
Philip Rivers is leading the league in passing with 2,695 passing yards and 336 passing yards per game this season. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in every home game this season. However, Rivers has lost his number one passing target, Keenan Allen. Through eight games, Allen had 67 receptions for 725 yards. This loss will have an effect on the entire offense and limits Rivers' upside. On the other side of the field, the Chicago Bears will be without the centerpiece of their offense, Matt Forte. Alshon Jeffery should be held in check by up-and-coming cornerback, Jason Verrett.
Will Grant: I agree with John that the injuries to Chicago and San Diego could limit the offensive production of both sides on Monday night. I like a couple Chicago players this week because of their pricing, but I don't think it's going to be shootout either, and reaching 50 combined points might be a bit of a stretch.
The other game that has the potential to be off script is the Dallas-Philadelphia game on Sunday night. Vegas predicts 44 total points with the Eagles expected to score 23-24 points. The Cowboys held the Eagles to just 10 points in Philadelphia back in Week 2 when Tony Romo went down. They also held the Seahawks to just 13 points last week. Their offense has struggled though, and they have only scored 38 points in their last three games combined. Playing the hated Eagles at home, I look for their defense to clamp down and hold the Eagles in check. This could very easily be another game where both teams combine for fewer than 35 points.
Chris Feery: The game between the Packers and Panthers has a projected total of 46.5 points, and that just seems a little too high. The Packers offense simply has not looked right over the past few weeks. And while I’m fully confident that they’ll get back in gear for the stretch run, they may have another rough week in front of them. The Broncos just laid out a fine blueprint for shutting down the Packers offense. While the Panthers defense is not playing at the same level as the Broncos, they are no slouches in the defensive department. The Panthers have forced 16 turnovers and sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times this season. This game could easily trend on the low side of the projected total. Jonathan Stewart is an intriguing low-cost option at $4,300 as the Panthers may lean towards the running game to help control possession and slow the Packers down even further.
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