NFL DFS Starting Points Week 9

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In this weekly article, we’ll use the early betting lines from Vegas to take a deeper look at which games to target and avoid for NFL DFS. Implied team totals have positive correlations with fantasy output, especially for quarterbacks. Plus, we’ll highlight some potentially under the radar teams with high implied team totals despite a lower over/under. Note that these lines will probably change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points.

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Target:

Green Bay at Kansas City, Total 55.5 points

PK

The game of the weekend gets top billing from me today. I suspect we might see some interesting line movement this week as the Packers played their Week 8 game without star Davante Adams (or Allen Lazard), barely eeking out a win over Arizona on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were lucky to come out on top of the Giants Monday night. Patrick Mahomes missed a lot of his downfield shots, making it two bad games in a row. In fact, he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns since facing Buffalo in Week 5. Don’t get me wrong -- I’m not part of the doomsday squad calling it over for Mahomes’ career or the Chiefs’ season. There is still plenty of football to be played in 2021. Still, with both Rodgers (184 passing yards and 2 TDs) and Mahomes coming off weak fantasy performances, I’m guessing we see lower than usual roster percentages on both at their Top Tier salaries.

My preference is Rodgers, who should have Adams back this week. Rodgers has been mistake-free since Week 5 and he’s either a little or a lot cheaper than Mahomes this week. I love a competitive football game between two offensive-minded teams; the Chiefs give up more fantasy points than anyone else playing this week (Washington is technically the most generous to QBs). I think you can also trust Aaron Jones this weekend. His role in the passing game (11 targets) in Week 9 might be reduced, but it won’t be zero, and his rushing has been steady. Though A.J. Dillon is coming on a bit, he is being limited to the ground game, and has yet to score a rushing touchdown. Given the shootout potential, I’m avoiding Dillon this weekend and possibly going back to Randall Cobb. Again, we can’t expect two touchdowns every week, but Cobb is a reliable underneath guy for Rodgers and that won’t change with Adams back. If you need a bargain receiver option, taking one from a high scoring game with touchdown-magnet hands, Cobb is your guy.

Tyreek Hill can turn even the ugliest games into nice fantasy lines. With Adams being the most expensive receiver across the board this week, Hill can feel like a bargain (on Yahoo especially). His 18 targets Monday night were a season high, and it was his fifth game with at least 12 targets. I’m someone who prefers him in tournaments, but it’s hard to argue against him in any format when he’s fully healthy. Travis Kelce should have a bounce-back game this week. The Packers are a middle-of-the-road defense, and Kelce still leads all tight ends in targets and yards, while making the Top 3 in touchdowns and target share. The Chiefs are likely to continue using a running back committee in Week 9, so this is a situation to approach with caution. On Yahoo, Darrel Williams is $14 and Derrick Gore is $10, so both are a usable bargain play there. But on FanDuel, Williams is $6700 and Gore is $5400, making it trickier to commit to either. On DraftKings, Gore is $4000 while Williams is $5700, which makes the choice of Gore a bit easier. On no site is the Chiefs’ RB a position I’m trying to build around.

LA Chargers at Philadelphia, Total 50.5 points

Chargers minus-1.5

Both of these teams have run the gamut on offense and defense this season, making it hard to predict what kind of game we’ll get as they face off in Philly. They are both completely average in every team stat I look at when preparing this article. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles are coming off a game in which Hurts attempted only 14 passes and rushed only seven times. Each of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard scored two rushing touchdowns on 12 carries apiece, while Kenneth Gainwell had 13 unproductive carries and zero targets in the dream matchup with Detroit. We knew Scott was a risk to get the goal line carries and vulture touchdowns, but we didn’t expect this. Howard and Scott split five carries inside the five-yard line, while Gainwell had just one in the red zone (and mostly wasn’t utilized until the fourth quarter in garbage time). This is a frustrating case because the Chargers rank fifth in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The cheap TD-dependent tournament option is Howard, with Scott’s salary shooting up after the two scores. I like Howard best on DraftKings ($4600). The best risk/reward option on the other sites is Gainwell, but after Sunday, it will be hard to click him into all but the most contrarian multi-entry GPP lineups.

The solution is to look across the field. While the Eagles can be very stingy to opposing wide receivers (allowing the third-fewest fantasy points), they are a dream RB matchup for Austin Ekeler. The downside of Ekeler is his salary, but it’s only really prohibitive on FanDuel ($9K). In a high scoring and competitive game, Ekeler could see another 20 touches easily this weekend. I consider him a super-safe play.

Hopefully you all believed me about Keenan Allen over Mike Williams in Week 8, but this week I’m not making any such call with confidence. In fact, I’m leaning toward pairing Ekeler with Justin Herbert in lineups where this game is featured, and not trying to decipher the wide receiver usage. You could consider Jared Cook for a flier TE play this weekend, given the high-scoring game environment and Philly’s DvP to TE, but I’d rather pay a bit more for a Dallas Goedert big game. Even with Hurts’ hardly throwing any passes and not playing the fourth quarter, Goedert caught six of seven targets in Week 8, for another double-digit fantasy point game. I expect a much higher-volume pass game this week, and with Jalen Reagor questionable, Goedert’s market share should go up.

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Avoid:

New England at Carolina, Total 41.5 points

Patriots minus-4

At one point this game would have found itself in the previous section, but with both teams allowing fewer than 21 points per game to opponents, and Carolina scoring an average of only 20 points per game, Vegas is not enthusiastic about offensive fireworks happening here. Mac Jones had looked better, but failed to throw a touchdown pass vs. the Chargers for the first time since Week 2. Carolina is a good pass defense, but a better run defense, which limits my enthusiasm for Damien Harris, who could easily break his four-game scoring streak this weekend. Unless Christian McCaffrey is back, like really back, this game just doesn’t hold any DFS appeal. Sam Darnold failed to score for the second game in a row vs. the
Falcons, and has completely lost the early season rushing ability that bolstered his fantasy lines.

Consider:

Buffalo at Jacksonville, Total 48.5 points

Bills minus-14.5

Once again, the Bills are huge favorites and once again, will they be able to pull it off without any hugely rewarding fantasy lines from the skill players? Josh Allen is always the safest play, and I’m always a fan of slotting him into your cash game lineups. Jacksonville gives up the fifth-most overall fantasy points, and ninth-most to QBs. Stefon Diggs was my big hope last weekend and he was fine, but for the price, it still came up short. Truthfully, Cole Beasley has been the best valued Bill in their last two games, with 17 receptions, 1 TD, and 198 receiving yards in the last two games. Beasley is typically an afterthought on DFS sites, but this kind of production has his salary rising. If Dawson Knox returns this week, it should cut into Beasley’s volume somewhat and I’d rather get Knox in at the more difficult position to fill. No Buffalo RB has had double-digit carries since Week 5, so no thanks to Zach Moss or Devin Singletary.

Dallas vs. Denver, Total 49.5 points

Cowboys minus-10

I would have thought that a lot depended on Dak Prescott’s availability for Week 9, which is expected, but Cooper Rush filled in just fine Sunday night. Denver is currently giving up the second-fewest points per game to opponents, while also failing to score more than 20 points per game. Vegas likes offense over defense, so we should feel confident in using Prescott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb in lineups this week. The unsustainable touchdown rate of Dalton Schultz has regressed, but he is a cheap Cowboy option with upside given the high team total of Dallas. After three weeks without finding the ball in his hands in the endzone, he’s due. After starting the season strong, Denver’s defense has allowed at least 100 yards rushing to opponents in four of their last five games (Las Vegas is the outlier). Ezekiel Elliott should be considered a fine option to fill the RB slot(s) and he’s pretty reasonably priced on all three sites.