Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 9

Last week's slate was a free-space palooza by the time lineups locked.

We had Latavius Murray as a bellcow, a high-paced affair between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, and a heavily-favored Seattle Seahawks team prepared to ruin the days of Atlanta Falcons fans everywhere. You knew exactly what the logical plays were if you gave the slate even a moment of thought.

This week, those free spaces have been Thanos'd.

We've been loading up on players facing the Bengals and Falcons all year; both are on bye. The same is true for the high-paced Arizona Cardinals, who played last night, and the New York Giants, who will play Monday.

We don't get to auto-roster Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, and workhorse backs like Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley are limited to single-game slates and memories of happier days.

All of our old reliable options for slates throughout this year are out the window. That could get us down in the dumps, but in reality, it's an opportunity.

If we know that we have to use players facing the Falcons every week, then so does everybody else playing DFS. There's no real edge in going that direction. We're just doing so out of obligation.

But when those hyper-obvious plays are no longer available, we're forced to dig in more. Everybody else playing is going to struggle just as much as us, so we're not alone in our dumpster-diving-for-value misery.

This is the type of slate that can reward people who are locked into news and paying the closest attention. And if you're out there consuming DFS content and mashing refresh on player news pages, that likely includes you. Rather than being annoyed that we can't use all of our favorites, we should view this as being a chance to flex our knowledge of the full DFS landscape.

Of course, that also means we have to do the work ourselves to determine where these diamonds in the rough lie, so it's not all sunshine and puppies. Let's get into that now.

Even with some of our staples off the main slate, there are still plenty of situations bound to impact which plays stand out for daily fantasy. By breaking down the impact of those situations, we should be able to pinpoint which plays are actually primed to pay off, even if they may not be as obvious as they are other weeks.

With that in mind, which situations do we need to monitor for the Week 9 main slate? Let's check it out.

The Chiefs' Quarterback Situation

If Patrick Mahomes were able to go, we'd at least have one game ready to blow. It would keep the Minnesota Vikings from getting an early lead and grinding clock, and Mahomes can light up any opposing defense.

However, that scenario seems a bit unlikely with Mahomes seemingly targeting a Week 10 return, instead. So let's assume that Matt Moore starts again and see what this does to this game.

Moore has filled in admirably in his six quarters at the head of the offense. He has averaged 0.14 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, slightly above the league-average mark of 0.12. NEP is the metric numberFire uses to track the expected points added or subtracted on each play throughout the year, helping quantify the difference between a two-yard rush on 3rd and 1 and a two-yard rush on 3rd and 3. Passing NEP takes into account expected points lost on sacks, incompletions, and interceptions, and Moore has been fine there.

Given that Moore has talent around him and the intelligence of the guy calling plays, this doesn't seem all that fluky or unsustainable. But it is still -- shockingly -- a downgrade from Mahomes.

Here's a comparison between the two this year. "Deep rate" is simply the percentage of throws that travel at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

In 2019 Passing NEP Per Drop Back Deep Rate
Patrick Mahomes 0.36 27.4%
Matt Moore 0.14 12.5%

Again, this is not a surprise to anyone because Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in football. But having a lower efficiency level and fewer deep balls does pretty dramatically impact the way we view an offense, and it impacts the opposing team, too.

The one big positive of Moore is that he is narrowing the target tree, funneling looks to his best pass-catchers. In Week 8, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins played a full game together for the first time all season, and all three got solid volume.

In Week 8 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Tyreek Hill 9 3 1
Travis Kelce 8 1 2
Sammy Watkins 8 1 1
Others 10 0 1

Each finished with at least 22.9% of the overall targets, and they combined to gobble all the high-leverage targets except for one. Even with lowered expectations for an offense, that's still fairly tasty.

Given the lack of deep volume from Moore (and a lack of quality value running backs), it may be hard to afford Hill at $7,700 on FanDuel. He's not off the map, but that is a fairly hefty cost.

Kelce at $6,700 and Watkins at $6,000, though, are a bit of a different story. Kelce fills a wretched tight-end slot, and Watkins is fairly cheap for his role. We can give consideration to both, though it's likely best to keep them out of our cash-game pool.

Moore himself is only $6,500 on FanDuel, and he's coming off a game where he scored 18.98 FanDuel points. We want to spend up for running backs this week, and Moore would help us do that.

But he's also roughly a league-average quarterback who doesn't throw deep much facing an above-average pass defense. There is a fairly restrictive ceiling on Moore that lowers his appeal in tournaments. We should likely try to find the salary to get up to some other quarterbacks we'll discuss later on, but if you desperately need to save salary, Moore would have a decently high floor.

Given that Moore is less likely to fuel a shootout than Mahomes, we do need to lower our evaluation of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, both of whom are spendy at $7,900 and $7,100, respectively. But they can certainly be options, assuming Thielen is able to go after getting in limited practices both Wednesday and Thursday.

Overall this year, the Vikings have been aggressively run-heavy on offense, which limits the volume in the passing game. But ever since Diggs and Thielen had a little squabble with the team following a Week 4 loss to the Chicago Bears, the team has loosened things up a bit. Here's their pass rate on early downs in the first halves of games (before game script dictates a team's play selection more) before and after that outing, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Vikings in 2019 Early-Down, First-Half Pass Rate
First 4 Games 36%
Past 4 Games 47%

The Vikings still have the second-lowest pass rate in these situations across the past four weeks, but they're no longer an outlier in the negative sense. It makes things a bit more palatable.

It also helps that they -- like the Chiefs -- have a fairly narrow target tree. Before Thielen's injury in Week 7, pretty much everything was going to either him or Diggs.

First Six Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Adam Thielen 26.0% 52.2% 46.2%
Stefon Diggs 23.3% 39.1% 23.1%

Even if the Vikings were to remain a run-first offense, we could still tolerate Thielen at $7,100 with those market shares. So if he can squeeze in a full practice by Friday, Thielen will be akin to Kelce and Watkins where he'd be a really dependable option.

Diggs is more in the Hill bucket. Both are expensive, but both clearly have considerable upside. As such, if you decide to stack this game -- which is something you could certainly do -- then they're on the radar. They're just a bit pricey as standalone options in non-game stacks.

As for Dalvin Cook, he's viable whether Mahomes plays or not. If the Vikings get a lead, they're going to lean heavily on him against a team that ranks 28th against the rush, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. If they fall behind, Cook will get some targets, too, and he has at least 30 receiving yards in five of eight games this year. It's moreso the passing game on both sides that would depend on the health of Mahomes as to whether we should fire at will or proceed with caution.

The Packers' Improving Health

Aaron Rodgers has gone scorched-Earth on the league the past two weeks, throwing for 734 yards and 8 touchdowns on 64 attempts. And he did that while playing with a banged-up pass-catching corps that may be getting a shot in the arm this week.

Rodgers shaving his mustache would be a pretty big blow to the team's efficiency, but getting Davante Adams back would likely mitigate most of those losses.

Prior to his injury, Adams had 26.1% of the Green Bay Packers' targets, 28.0% of the deep targets, and 26.1% of the red-zone targets. He did that while facing a number of the league's top corners, so a date with Casey Hayward likely wouldn't need to push us off of Adams. He'd certainly be in play in his first game back.

The same would be true for Rodgers. His dominance the past two weeks has come against poor competition, but he'll be getting the same thing with the Los Angeles Chargers. They enter Week 9 as numberFire's 27th-ranked pass defense, the second-best matchup the Packers have had all year long. Rodgers is pricey at $8,100, but we shouldn't expect him to slow down just yet.

Adams is certainly one stacking partner you can pair with Rodgers. But it would also be understandable if you wanted to avoid Adams this week, whether it be due to Hayward or Adams' extended layoff. In that scenario, Aaron Jones is your stacking savior.

Jones has at times lost work to Jamaal Williams this year, so when Williams came back from his concussion, it was fair to expect that Jones would take a step back from his early-season productivity. Instead, the opposite has happened. Jones actually leads the team with 19.4% of the targets since Williams returned, he has a deep target in each game, and he has been targeted five times in the red zone. Somehow, Jones' role has gotten better of late.

The best part about Jones' recent workload is that he's getting creative targets. The Packers are going out of their way to get the ball in his hands, and he's rewarding them with massive production. There's tons of juice in those types of targets for a running back, and when it's paying off this well, we shouldn't expect that to change going forward.

Jones' target share will likely take a dip if Adams is back because they'll have another viable pass-catcher in the offense, but we can feel really good about Jones here. He's facing the 29th-ranked rush defense, so even at $7,700, Jones is a top-end tournament play. There are likely better backs to target in cash games, but Jones' upside makes him a must.

Outside of those two, though, it's hard to get excited about anybody else in the Packers' offense even with expected high levels of efficiency. Jones was the only Packer to get more than five targets last week, and that was even with Adams still sidelined. As such, we can feel really good about all of Jones, Rodgers, and Adams in tournaments (in that order), but anybody else is a bit thin to talk up.

O.C. Change Near the O.C.

Sticking with that game, we get a coordinator change for the Chargers as offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt became the team's scapegoat, getting canned earlier this week. That's going to lead to some changes in the offense. We just don't know what they'll be.

There are a couple of potential causes for this change. Head coach Anthony Lynn could have disagreed with Whisenhunt's personnel usage or his play-calling. And depending on which of those two things you side with, it would likely lead to some fluctuations from a DFS perspective.

Everybody's salary on FanDuel is based on the role they played within Whisenhunt's offense, meaning we're going to have some players who are currently cheaper than they should be based on their forward-looking role. This is a spot where we want to play the assumption game so that we can get in on those players before the market reacts.

The two biggest potential pieces whose value could fluctuate are Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. And both are fairly cheap at $6,300 and $6,500, respectively, which makes it a bit more enticing.

Lynn has said in the past how important it is to get Gordon involved, potentially signaling that Gordon could be the one due for the biggest boost.

Gordon has been brutal this year, posting just a 20.5% Rushing Success Rate (the percentage of carries that increase the team's expected points for the drive) on his first 44 carries. That's likely never going to be a great number with all the injuries the Chargers have had up front. But over the past three games, the Chargers have faced the second-, fifth-, and ninth-ranked rush defenses, based on numberFire's metrics, meaning they weren't likely to succeed even if Gordon were playing out of his mind.

This week, they get the Packers, who are 26th against the rush. Gordon should see an increase in his efficiency, and if that's coupled with a bump up in his volume, that's pretty intriguing at $6,300.

Of course, we could see the opposite if the team were to go more pass-heavy, which would likely lead to increased usage for Ekeler. Given how lethal he is in the passing game, he would be an elite option at $6,500 if he were to suddenly be more involved.

That's why we can justify using either Gordon or Ekeler in tournaments at their respective salaries. Because Gordon had eight carries to Ekeler's three last week (while both had three targets), Gordon should be our preferred option. But both are viable in sprinkles, though neither should sniff a cash-game roster.

The other potential benefactor here is Philip Rivers, who is just $7,200 on FanDuel, a bargain for a guy who is a respectable 13th in Passing NEP per drop back despite facing a tough schedule thus far. If the Chargers were to throw a bit more, which is in their range of outcomes with the change, then Rivers would be a pretty easy selection at that salary, even against a solid Packers pass defense.

The potential for increased passing is why Mike Williams is desirable at $5,700, too, as we could have viewed him as being underpriced even if the status quo were to be maintained. Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen would also benefit, but neither carries a salary as low as Williams'.

The total in this game has risen to 48.5 from 46, according to oddsFire, and we can see the reasons why. That's enough to justify investing in both sides, though we'll want to favor the Packers given we have a good idea of how things should play out there.

A Quarterback Change in Denver

Joe Flacco is out the next four to six weeks due to a neck injury, meaning Brandon Allen takes over as the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback. The biggest benefactors are likely Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns' defense.

Flacco has had a rough year, averaging -0.02 Passing NEP per drop back through the first eight games. That ranks 31st out of 38 quarterbacks with at least 75 drop backs, so clearly Flacco wasn't getting the job done.

But it's hard to pin all the blame for those struggles on Flacco. The team just traded away Emmanuel Sanders, and they have the fifth-highest sack rate in the league. The quarterback plays a heavy role in that number, but Flacco traditionally had low sack rates when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. That means there were bigger issues.

Thus, Allen steps into a poor situation, and we don't know much about him individually. Allen lost the Rams' backup job to Blake Bortles in the preseason by throwing three picks compared to no touchdowns across 69 total attempts. He had solid efficiency marks in college at Arkansas, but those came all the way back in 2015.

Even with both Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant projected to get respectable volume, it'll be hard to trust them in a potentially sputtering offense. Fant is only $4,600 on FanDuel, and we'd love to spend down there this weekend, but if Fant couldn't get going with Flacco throwing passes, it's hard to see him finding productivity under Allen.

That's why Chubb and the Browns' defense are the biggest winners here. Allen is likely to struggle, helping the Browns build a lead. That's good for Chubb as it'll give him volume on the ground late in the game, and with the Broncos ranked 22nd against the rush, he should be efficient in that volume.

If the Browns build a lead, it'll also force Allen to drop back more often. That means additional exposure to Myles Garrett, which is abundantly likely to lead to sacks and other high-upside plays for a defense.

Chubb is $8,100, and the Browns' defense is $4,300. The two stack well together for tournaments, and the Browns' defense is in play for cash. Chubb is a bit less enticing for cash given his salary and muted volume in the passing game, but he'll be in a similar mold to Aaron Jones with massive appeal for tournaments.

The Eagles' Lid-Lifter Potentially Returning

The Philadelphia Eagles' offense has been sorely lacking DeSean Jackson's presence. Without him, they don't have many vertical threats in the passing game, and Carson Wentz sits just 22nd in Passing NEP per drop back as a result. That may be in line to change on Sunday.

Jackson has been limited both days, so it's not a given he returns. If he doesn't, we can proceed as usual with this team. If he does, it'll put a pretty major unknown into what we can expect from a usage perspective.

Whether Jackson is out there or not, we can expect Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz to play their usual snap allotment. They may lose some target share with Jackson back, but the likely increased efficiency in the offense might offset that a bit. So from an overall fantasy perspective, we could keep things level with those two.

The two players more up in the air are Dallas Goedert and Nelson Agholor. Over the past three weeks, the Eagles have had two tight ends on the field for 50% of their offensive plays, according to Sharp Football Stats. That's the highest rate in the league over this time, and it led to Goedert playing a season-high 75.3% of the snaps in Week 8. And Goedert has carved out a legit role in the offense across these three weeks, as well.

Past 3 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Alshon Jeffery 25.6% 19.1% 25.0%
Zach Ertz 20.0% 28.6% 25.0%
Dallas Goedert 18.9% 14.3% 25.0%

If we were to get a tight end at $5,000 who will play 70% of the snaps while getting 18.9% of his team's targets, we'd joyously take it given how expensive the desirable running backs are on the slate. But we can't be guaranteed Goedert will continue to get that much work.

With Jackson back, the Eagles could potentially go back to more three-receiver sets, forcing one of either Ertz or Goedert to the sideline. That would likely eat into Goedert's snap rate as he played just 54.7% of the snaps in Week 1, Jackson's lone healthy game.

Alternatively, they could opt to stick with increased two-tight-end usage, putting Agholor on the sidelines instead of Goedert. Agholor ranks 43rd in expected points added per target out of 50 wide receivers with at least 40 targets, so that option seems fairly enticing at first glance.

That means we shouldn't target Goedert in cash games, even with our desire to spend down. He's the useful piece here whose workload is most volatile in Jackson's return, and we want to avoid that in those formats.

For tournaments, though, we can still give thought to Goedert. Per Sharp Football Stats, the Eagles have a 50% success rate for the full season when they have two receivers and two tight ends on the field; it dips a hair to 48% when they go with three receivers and one tight end. With how well Goedert has played, it would not be a shock to see them keep him on the field, instead opting for the heavier personnel groupings. There's plenty of risk with Goedert, but the upsides of getting a viable tight end for just $5,000 are enough to make it worthwhile.

The other interesting personnel decision the Eagles have is with their running backs. Miles Sanders practiced in full on Thursday, meaning he's fully over his shoulder injury, and Darren Sproles got in a limited practice for the second straight day. Sproles has missed three games with a quad injury, and his return would threaten to rob us of a juicy Jordan Howard revenge game.

Sproles' role had been trimmed prior to his injury, but he was still playing meaningful snaps. Here's how the workload was divided back in Week 5, Sproles' most recent game.

In Week 5 Snap Rate Carries Targets
Jordan Howard 42.7% 13 0
Miles Sanders 42.7% 9 5
Darren Sproles 14.7% 3 1

Both Sanders and Howard performed well in Sproles' absence, so it's possible that Sproles' offensive role would be cut down on his return. But this has the makings of a potential committee once again.

Howard, Sanders, and Sproles all have unique skill sets and strengths, so it makes complete sense that the Eagles would rotate bodies here. But from a DFS perspective, it's difficult to get enthused about a clogged-up situation like this. Prior to Week 8 when both Sanders and Sproles were hurt, Howard hadn't topped 15 carries all season long, and we know he's not the most likely piece here to get work in the passing game. Because of that, if Sanders and Sproles are both able to go, it may be wise to shuttle exposure to this backfield elsewhere.

A David Montgomery Breakout?

Our never-ending search for cheap volume at running back takes us to the other sideline in that game to dig deeper into David Montgomery. Montgomery blew up last week, and he's still only $6,600. There are still some lingering unknowns we must address, though.

Primarily, we don't know what Montgomery's usage will look like in negative game script, which is key with the Eagles favored by 4.5. Although the Bears lost last week, the game was tight the whole way, and Chicago led until there was 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. So we don't really know how things will shake out here if the Bears were to fall behind.

The Bears certainly didn't pull the plug on Montgomery once they were down last week, which does bode well for him. After the Chargers got their one-point lead, Montgomery still had six of seven running-back carries (or six of six, depending on how you classify Cordarrelle Patterson). That means he was at least on the field when the Bears needed a score, and that's a plus in Montgomery's corner.

It doesn't mean he's a lock to be on the field if they trail this week, though. Montgomery ran 21 routes on 39 drop backs, per Pro Football Focus, while Tarik Cohen ran nine routes and Mike Davis ran two. It did allow Montgomery to tie a season-high with five targets, but his role in the passing game truly didn't change all that much. He just got a truckload of carries.

The final complicating factor here is that the Eagles are an elite run-stuffing unit. They have allowed the fifth-lowest Rushing Success Rate to opposing running backs, according to numberFire's Brandon Gdula, while ranking 21st against the pass. Smart teams throw against the Eagles. It's just impossible to know if the Bears will go that route given the guy throwing the ball is Mitchell Trubisky.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying that we don't know how the Bears are going to use Montgomery this week, which shoves him out of the cash-game player pool. We can go there in tournaments as there is a scenario in which the Bears build a lead and can feed Montgomery yet again, but there's another back we'll get to later in Le'Veon Bell who grades out better in a similar salary tier. Consider Montgomery, but don't get overly confident that his role from last week will stick.

Instead, if you want to get some cheap exposure to the Bears, you could do worse than Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel's snap rate went back up to 74.4% last week, the highest since his Week 3 concussion. Gabriel finished with six targets (second on the team behind Allen Robinson), two of which were deep. Obviously, we'd love to get up to Robinson at $7,200, but if you're scraping for value, Gabriel's role is voluminous enough to consider at $4,900.

Injury Uncertainty for the Steelers and Colts

There aren't a ton of high-impact injuries to track heading into Week 9, but two of them are in the same game as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Indianapolis Colts. Both James Conner and T.Y. Hilton are in flux, and we don't have a definitive answer on either right now.

Starting with Conner, his situation is especially important now with Benny Snell Jr. out two to three weeks due to a knee injury. If Conner can't go, we're going to get Jaylen Samuels as an every-down back at just $5,000, and he would open up plenty on this slate.

The two things we want out of a cheap running back are guaranteed snaps and passing-down work. Even on a half-PPR site like FanDuel, you need targets to have either a floor or a ceiling, so this is a pretty critical box to check. With Samuels, there's no question he'd be positioned well there.

In a three-game stretch filling in for Conner last year, Samuels averaged 14 carries and 4 targets per game while logging at least a 62.5% snap rate in each. He also had eight targets in a game this year while playing alongside Conner, so the passing-down work is a given.

Samuels is coming off a knee injury of his own, but he was able to practice in full all of last week before ultimately being inactive, and he has practiced in full this week, as well. So if both Conner and Snell sit, Samuels is an elite option viable for both cash games and tournaments, and he'd make it much easier to jam both Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey into a lineup together.

If Conner can go, then this shapes up to be closer to a committee. In Samuels' most recent game, he played 45.8% of the snaps while Conner was at 64.4%. When it's a committee tied to a backup quarterback, and Conner is $7,300, that's a spot we'll likely want to avoid.

On the Colts' side, they already projected to be a bit run-heavy this weekend. In four home games, they've thrown 56% of the time on early downs in the first half; that number has fallen to 53% in their three road games. So this offense really is dynamic depending on whether they're playing on turf or not, and Heinz Field is grass. We should have been expecting a more plodding pace to begin with.

Hilton was limited in practice Wednesday and then absent entirely on Thursday, indicating he may have gotten banged up within the practice. That's ominous for a Colts team that has really struggled without Hilton, as you can see here via The Quant Edge's injury tool.

Colts in 2019 Pass Rate Yards Per Pass Yards Per Rush
With Hilton On 52.4% 7.09 4.52
With Hilton Off 50.4% 6.75 3.37

Not only does it deprive Jacoby Brissett of his lone ultra-viable weapon, but it allows other teams to focus on the run and bottle up Marlon Mack. Hilton sitting would be a downgrade for everyone tied to this team. It would also increase the odds this game hits the under, deflating the appeal in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson.

The only person who could potentially benefit if Hilton were to sit would be Zach Pascal. Pascal had seven targets in the first game Hilton missed this year, and he played a season-high 92.2% of the snaps last week. It'd be a run-first, decreased-efficiency offense, but Pascal is also just $5,300. We'd likely be able to rank him ahead of Gabriel among the value receivers, and he and Diontae Johnson would combine to give you two semi-tolerable receiver plays within the same game.

The Battle of the Value Tight Ends

In round one of the world's most riveting duel, Jonnu Smith blew the doors off of Cameron Brate as the better value option on Week 8's main slate. With both Delanie Walker and O.J. Howard missing practice again on Wednesday and Thursday this week, round two could be on tap for Sunday. Can Jonnu deliver the decisive blow?

If he can find a way to get double-digit receiving yards, he probably will. Brate has gone two full calendar years without topping 50 receiving yards, and that's despite Howard missing eight total games in that span. Yardage upside is tough to come by for value tight ends, and Brate is no exception to that thought.

However, to be fair to Brate, only one of those games took place in this current offense, so we should focus more heavily on what he did in Week 8 than how he fared in Week 17 of 2017.

The table below looks at the workload these two players (and a third mystery option) have gotten in their most relevant samples this year. For Brate, it's just Week 8. For Smith, it's Weeks 7 and 8 as Walker got hurt just five snaps into Week 7. For our mystery player, the workload is from Week 3 on.

Most Relevant Samples Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Jonnu Smith 16.1% 27.3% 18.2%
Cameron Brate 14.6% 0.0% 0.0%
Mystery Option 14.1% 12.1% 30.8%

There's a discrepancy in quarterback quality between Smith and Brate, and Brate has the better matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. But if you want any upside at all, Smith is clearly the preferred option.

The dilemma between Smith and our mystery option is a bit more complicated. Both get at least some downfield work, and the mystery option has a larger role in the red zone. So it's not a slam dunk either way.

The mystery option is Greg Olsen, playing in the same game as Smith. Olsen's most relevant sample is since Kyle Allen took over as quarterback, and his workload hasn't been great, but it hasn't been that much different than Smith's. Olsen's average depth of target (aDOT) with Allen (8.5, per is also a full yard higher than Smith's the past two weeks (7.4). Additionally, Olsen is actually $200 cheaper than Smith at $5,300 and likely to be far less popular.

Olsen has some major issues with quarterback play, but you could say the same thing about Smith as Ryan Tannehill finally prepares to face a pass defense ranked higher than 23rd for the first time as a starter. The Carolina Panthers are third in that department, positioning the Panthers' defense well at $4,000.

The Titans are no slouches defensively, sitting 11th against the pass, but the Panthers are at home and 3.5-point favorites. Their overall situation is likely better, meaning you can certainly make a case to favor Olsen over Smith.

Again, Brate has a great matchup, and his quarterback (even with his flaws) is likely better than what both Smith and Olsen have. But with Brate, you're basically just hoping he falls into the end zone to get you 10 points while Olsen and Smith have a bit more juice than that.

Considering all of this, it's likely wise to put Brate last on our list, behind the aforementioned Goedert, as well. The uncertainty around Goedert's role would likely put him beneath Olsen and Smith if DeSean Jackson were to return, but he'd be first on the list of Jackson were to sit. Between Smith and Olsen, it's really a coinflip, but with Olsen projected to be the more contrarian option, it's not a bad idea to put him first on our list among the value tight ends.

Holding Our Noses and Using the Jets

After the past two weeks, the thought of using the New York Jets in DFS will probably have you sprinting toward the Pepto. It's hard to blame you.

But one of those games was against numberFire's second-ranked defense in the New England Patriots, and the other was facing a stout Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line. With how bad the Jets are up front, it shouldn't be a shock that things went sour there.

This week, they get the Miami Dolphins. Things are just a wee bit different this time around.

The Dolphins are dead last overall defensively, dead last against the pass, and -- in a stunning upset -- 31st against the rush. Small victories!

It's also important to remember that this Jets offense just three weeks ago put up a huge outing against the Dallas Cowboys, and while the Cowboys' defense isn't great, they're a whole heck of a lot better than the Dolphins. The Jets may also get left tackle Kelvin Beachum back after he returned to a limited practice Thursday. We want to use Jets here; we just have to decide which ones.

Our most relevant sample for the Jets is the three games they've played since Sam Darnold's return. Darnold has been far more willing to let it rip than Luke Falk was, meaning the market shares from those even darker days are irrelevant. Here's how things have looked the past three weeks.

Since Darnold's Return Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Robby Anderson 24.4% 31.0% 0.0%
Jamison Crowder 21.1% 13.8% 15.4%
Demaryius Thomas 21.1% 34.5% 30.8%
Le'Veon Bell 11.1% 3.5% 23.1%

What may stand out most here is how muted Le'Veon Bell's usage has been in this time. However, Bell expects to be more involved this week, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, and Bell did have nine targets in Week 1 with Darnold starting. At just $7,000 against this Dolphins defense, Bell is a cash-game consideration and one of the better tournament plays on the board, as well.

You could put Robby Anderson in a similar class, though his role carries a bit of a lower floor than Bell's. Still, a 24.4% target share is respectable, Anderson is averaging three deep targets per game, and the Dolphins have gotten torched by speedy receivers all year long. Anderson should sit beneath Bell on our Jets wish list, but he's still a top-notch tournament play.

When you look at the numbers above, you may think that Demaryius Thomas is in play, especially with his salary down at just $4,800. If he were to maintain that workload, that would be an accurate assessment. We just can't guarantee that'll be the case.

Back in early October, The Athletic's Connor Hughes mentioned that Vyncint Smith could see his role expand as the season goes along. Smith is just 23 years old, has elite athleticism, and scored on an end-around in his Jets debut back in Week 5. For a team that's not competing, why wouldn't you give this guy a look?

The Jets have done exactly as Hughes predicted. Here are the receivers' snap rates in the three games following Smith's debut.

Snap Rates Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Robby Anderson 91.9% 91.8% 90.2%
Jamison Crowder 80.7% 77.1% 72.1%
Demaryius Thomas 80.7% 72.1% 62.3%
Vyncint Smith 12.9% 26.2% 41.0%

As Smith's role expands, Thomas' contracts. Smith isn't involved enough for us to roll him out yet, but it should give us serious pause before we throw Thomas into a lineup.

Jamison Crowder has also seen a slight dip in his snap rate, but his has been steadier than Thomas', and with two years left on his contract, he's more likely to be part of the Jets' long-term plans at the position. Crowder has hit 98 receiving yards twice in the four games Darnold has played, so he has a path to a big game, and he's just $5,800. We should favor Anderson, who is just $400 more, but Crowder is an option, as well.

As for the Sixth Sense man himself, we should consider Darnold at $7,300. He has been horrific of late, but he had 20.62 FanDuel points against the Cowboys, and the Dolphins have allowed multiple touchdown passes to every quarterback who has faced them while netting just two interceptions all year. This includes the likes of Case Keenum, Josh Allen, and Mason Rudolph, so we shouldn't toss Darnold out of our player pool at $7,300. He should sit below someone like Jameis Winston, who is just $200 more, but it would be imprudent to ignore Darnold simply because he struggled against stout defensive lines.

Mark Walton... the Bellcow?

On Monday night, we got a taste of what Mark Walton's role will look like with Kenyan Drake out the door. And it was good enough where we might actually have to consider using a Dolphin in DFS.

Walton finished that game with 11 carries and 6 targets while playing 86.7% of the snaps. Prior to that game, no Dolphins running back had topped a 65% snap rate this year. It was actually the highest snap rate of any running back across the NFL in Week 8.

Walton didn't do much with this volume, generating 54 yards from scrimmage, and he's yet to score a touchdown this year. But that also makes sense given the matchup.

The Steelers are currently numberFire's second-ranked run defense in the entire league. When facing the Buffalo Bills the week before, Walton actually racked up 66 yards rushing on 14 carries, which isn't too shabby.

For the full season, the Jets have been awesome against the rush, ranking fourth. But that was with Leonard Williams in the mix, and he has since been dealt to the Giants. This will be the Jets' first game without Williams, so it's likely their run defense will take a step back the rest of the way.

This is not a plea for you to use Walton. We can't do that with anybody tied to a team actively trying to lose as they could change up players' roles without any notice. But it does mean we have to at least consider him.

The other route for stacking this game should you decide to use Darnold as your quarterback is via the receivers, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams. We've had two games now with Ryan Fitzpatrick re-installed as the team's starter, and here's where the balls have gone in that sample.

Past 2 Weeks Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
DeVante Parker 27.3% 8.3% 33.3%
Preston Williams 22.7% 33.3% 22.2%

Parker got deep work from Fitzpatrick earlier in the year, so those numbers shouldn't tell us that he won't see downfield looks in the future. Parker's two highest target totals of the season have come the past two weeks, meaning we may want to give him the slight edge here at $5,800. But both guys are in play, especially if Jamal Adams can't go after being downgraded to limited in Thursday's practice.

A Resurgent Danny Amendola

Based on what has worked previously in perfect FanDuel lineups, in order for a receiver to be viable for DFS, they need to be able to do one of two things. They need to have the upside to get you 85 receiving yards or score two touchdowns. If they can't hit either of those marks, they probably don't have the ceiling you need for tournaments.

For a long time, Danny Amendola didn't have that upside. In fact, he was the only guy to make a perfect lineup last year without meeting the above requirements when he had exactly 84 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 7. But things have been a bit different this year.

Amendola has already had three games with 95 or more receiving yards this year, a mark he had hit just nine times his entire career prior to 2019. That's despite playing at least 50% of the snaps in only four games while dealing with injuries.

On one hand, this means we should at least give thought to Amendola, and that is a potential takeaway. The bigger takeaway, though, is that he's spreading out the targets a bit for the Detroit Lions, and we're going to want a piece of them against the Oakland Raiders.

Our most relevant sample with the Lions is going to be those aforementioned four games in which Amendola hit 50% of the snaps. His two highest snap rates of the season have come the past two weeks, meaning he's not going away. Here's the target distribution in that sample, coming from Weeks 1, 2, 7, and 8.

Weeks 1, 2, 7, and 8 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Danny Amendola 22.5% 12.9% 25.0%
Kenny Golladay 19.7% 45.2% 16.7%
Marvin Jones 19.1% 19.4% 50.0%

Even with Amendola getting just one target in Week 2, he still leads the team in targets in this span. We can't view this as being just a two-receiver team anymore.

Unfortunately, Amendola has a bit of Robert Woods syndrome. He gets a decent number of overall targets, but he's not the team's main weapon down the field or in the red zone. The floor is really solid, but it's still hard to truly envision a blow-up game.

That's enough for us to put Amendola third on our list, though he remains viable if you decide to stack this game up, which is certainly an option.

Kenny Golladay -- despite his massive salary at $7,600 -- should be the guy leading this list. He has 14 deep targets across these four games, allowing him to top 115 receiving yards twice and score four total touchdowns. The upside here is unquestioned.

However, the floor remains a bit shaky. Golladay has also been held to fewer than 50 receiving yards twice in this four-game sample. That makes him harder to justify for cash games, especially when we're trying to cram in expensive running backs. So Golladay's got the green light for tourneys, but we shouldn't prioritize him in cash.

Jones is the cheapest member of this group at $5,700, but he has also had the biggest issues generating yardage. His maximum output in the four games where Amendola has played half the snaps is 93 receiving yards, a number Amendola has topped three times and Golladay has topped twice. So it's really not all that egregious to have Jones third among the group.

But the path to a big day is still clearly there for Jones. One of the games where Amendola was involved was when Jones had his four-touchdown jam session, so his ceiling is higher than Amendola's. That's why we're going to rank him higher for tournaments than Amendola, though if you're looking for floor, this isn't where you want to go.

The other situation to monitor with the Lions is that running back Tra Carson was limited in practice Thursday, indicating he may have gotten hurt during the practice. It would open up some snaps in a crowded backfield.

Ty Johnson did lead the team in snap rate last week, and he almost had a couple of big plays. So he could be a benefactor if Carson were forced to sit. However, he'd be nothing more than a prayer play given that J.D. McKissic and Paul Perkins also got in some work during that game, so if you want exposure to the Lions, it's best to do so via Matthew Stafford and the big-play pass-catchers.

A Pair of Missing Centers

The Raiders and Seahawks are two of the run-heaviest offenses in football, sitting 27th and 29th, respectively, in early-down pass rate during the first half, according to Sharp Football Stats. When they have their way, they want to pound the ball on the ground.

Both will have to do so this week without their starting centers.

The Raiders will likely be without Rodney Hudson due to a high ankle sprain, though offensive coordinator Greg Olson did not rule Hudson out for Week 9. The Seahawks will definitively have to make due without Justin Britt, who is on injured reserve with an ACL injury. Hudson is Pro Football Focus' second-graded pass-blocking center, and both are among the top eight in run-blocking among qualified centers. That's going to put a dent in those plans of attack.

For the Seahawks, the timing is pretty brutal. They're facing the league's best schedule-adjusted run defense, per numberFire's metrics. A rational coach would likely choose to attack the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via the air, but it's hard to assume rational coaching anywhere, especially in Seattle.

If the Seahawks try to run with Chris Carson, the most likely outcome is just a disappointing output by the entire offense. Carson has been great this year, and his volume has been just as good, but this is a pretty tough spot for him. We should likely favor spending up for McCaffrey and Cook or saving salary with guys like Chubb, Jones, and Bell.

A potential dip in efficiency would also be a negative for Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf. All three are fairly expensive, as well, making them even a bit tougher to justify.

We know that when the Seahawks do decide to air it out, good things will happen against this secondary. It's just hard to know how often that will happen.

The reason we can still go at this team in tournaments, though, is that the Seahawks' defense stinks, ranking 22nd against the pass. There's a scenario where Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans give the Bucs an early lead, forcing the Seahawks to take the more efficient route and air it out. If that happens, Wilson has the potential to be the highest-scoring quarterback on the slate.

There is also the possibility that the Seahawks do the right thing and throw from the get-go. We shouldn't assume it, which is why we should avoid all these guys in cash, but game-stacking this one up is fully in play.

When we do that, all the pass-catchers are in play, and you could give some consideration to Carson, too, given that he does at least get some targets. But here's an overview of the others in their most relevant samples. For the Bucs, that's the full season as Howard wasn't all that involved before his injury. For the Seahawks, it's since Will Dissly got hurt as he did open up some volume in the offense. To account for the discrepancy in the two teams' pass rates, we'll list the average targets per game rather than the shares.

Most Relevant Samples Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Mike Evans 9.6 3.0 2.0
Chris Godwin 8.9 2.0 1.1
DK Metcalf 7.0 2.0 2.0
Tyler Lockett 6.5 2.5 1.5

Lockett is $7,500, meaning he's only $600 cheaper than Evans and $700 cheaper than Godwin, but his workload is a far cry short of what those two have done. That means we need to rank them much higher when stacking this game up, even if the Seahawks do let it rip a bit more.

Metcalf, though, seems to have benefited a bit from Dissly being out. He's getting more overall targets than Lockett, and lots of them are high-leverage looks. People will be on him last week after he scored twice, but it's not point-chasey to use Metcalf at $6,700.

Due to their muted volume, Lockett and Metcalf are guys we should use almost exclusively when stacking this game. Clearly, Evans and Godwin are a bit different and can be in play as standalone options, too. Which should we favor when doing so?

Because DFS players have been pretty sharp recently, we shouldn't assume that Godwin will be the less popular option between the two simply because Evans blew up last week. People seem to know that Godwin's a great option, so he's not going to fly under the radar just because Evans blew the lid off of last week's slate. In fact, Godwin is the player who has been tagged more often on FanShare Sports.

Evans' workload is more volatile between the two as he has had fewer than eight targets three times while Godwin has done so only twice. But Evans' overall body of work is better in each category, and his true ceiling is likely higher than Godwin's. We should go at both this week, but it's really not a fish move to go right back to Evans after his eruption.

As for the Raiders without Hudson, it seems likely that this impacts the entire team, starting with Josh Jacobs.

Jacobs' workload has been improving recently, specifically in the passing game. He has multiple targets in five straight games, including last week while playing through a shoulder injury, and his snap rate stayed at 55.4% despite a negative game script. The arrow is up on this guy for sure.

But Jacobs' salary accounts for his role change. He's up at $7,200, higher than Bell and $500 less than Jones, who has a clear edge in the passing game. Given that the offense could be less efficient with Hudson out, we should lower Jacobs a bit in our minds, even with a plus matchup on tap.

Hudson's injury also has the potential to hurt Derek Carr. Carr is ninth in Passing NEP per drop back this year, but a big part of that is tied to his ability to avoid sacks. Even when we exclude the games that Tyrell Williams has missed to injury, Carr's aDOT is only 7.1, which would rank 25th among qualified passers if it were his full-season number. That puts a dent in his upside, and his floor goes down with Hudson out. As such, we can potentially avoid Carr at $7,300 even though the Raiders have the second-highest implied total on the slate.

Williams and Darren Waller are still options, though, given that they've had respectable volume in the games Williams has played.

When Williams Plays Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Darren Waller 29.4% 20.0% 28.6%
Tyrell Williams 19.6% 60.0% 35.7%

Waller's overall volume would be elite for a wide receiver, but he also fills your tight-end position at $6,800. And Williams is akin to Golladay in a lower-volume passing offense where you know he's going to get all the downfield looks. That allows us to be into both him and Waller even while being fairly sour on their quarterback.