FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 9 Monday Night (Patriots at Jets)

With Cam Newton in a tier of his own, how should we approach this single-game slate for daily fantasy football?

After a Sunday Night Football beatdown by the New Orleans Saints over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we may be set up for another disappointing primetime game from a viewing standpoint.

The New England Patriots travel to face the New York Jets in a game with an over/under of 41.5 points and a 9.5-point spread that favors the road Patriots. That means that the implied totals here are just 25.5 for New England and 16.0 for the Jets.

Scoring may be at a premium on Week 9's Monday night slate. Which plays, then, stand out for the single-game slate?

Before we dig in, don't forget to brush up on some single-game perfect lineup trends and leverage our Sharpstack single-game optimizer for correlated lineup plays. Let's dig into overall strategy and MVP considerations and flex possibilities, as well.

MVP Considerations

Using numberFire's projections as the base, Cam Newton ($17,000) is well worth the salary. That's not to say that he's a must-play, but it's an appropriate number. Simulating this slate 1,000 times returns a 51.6% chance for Newton to lead the game in FanDuel points, making him a really enticing MVP play even when we know he'll be a popular pick.

He's got an 87.0% chance to finish top-five in FanDuel points, as well, so the odds that an optimal lineup doesn't include Newton is quite low. The Jets are 30th in adjusted pass defense but 7th in adjusted rush defense, per numberFire's metrics. The offense should flow through Newton, undoubtedly.

The primary decision with Newton isn't whether to play him (you should in a majority of your lineups) but whether to differentiate by not using him at MVP. If he'll lead the slate 50% of the time in FanDuel points, try to predict the chance he'll be the MVP in your opponents' rosters. (In the 2019 season, a lineup's MVP was a quarterback 49.9% of the time; it's safe to say Newton will be well above that. This implies, to me, that the best way to approach the slate with a tournament-winning mindset is to roster Newton less frequently than that at your MVP spot. If you just want the safest lineup, play Newton at MVP.)

The next best odds to lead the slate actually belonged not to Joe Flacco ($12,500) but Jamison Crowder ($14,000). It's rare to see a quarterback so low in salary on a single-game slate. But for $14,750 each, you can get Newton and Flacco, which isn't that different from what you'd pay for two quarterbacks in a more standard game. Flacco faces a top-six pass defense here and has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. If the Jets struggle, then we shouldn't be surprised if we get a 4-1 optimal lineup with 4 Patriots and just a single Jet.

Going back to Crowder, he's expected to play through a groin injury. He has a 29.5% target share in four healthy games, which works out to 11.5 targets per game. This will be the first game that he shares with both Breshad Perriman ($7,000) and Denzel Mims ($8,000). Still, the next best market share in active games belongs to Jeff Smith ($6,500; 19.0%), and he averages just 6.6 targets per game. Crowder's ceiling makes him the most enticing MVP pivot because everyone will lean toward Newton, particularly at MVP. Receivers are historically disrespected at the MVP spot, as well.

Flex Considerations

With so much of the MVP draft percentage locked on Newton, we have plenty of ways to pivot. None of the following plays here are primary MVP picks, but you can make the case for Perriman, Mims, and Jakobi Meyers ($11,000).

Perriman has a 14.9% target share in his two most recent games with an average depth of target of 15.1 yards downfield (the receiver average is 10.6 currently in the NFL). That leads to 1.5 downfield targets per game, giving him some encouraging volatility. Mims, over the past two games, has an 18.9% target share with a lower 7.2-yard average depth of target. Perriman may have the better path to upside based on the depth of his targets.

Meyers has had 6 and 10 targets the past two games with 3 total downfield targets. However, he has put up just 60 and 58 yards with no touchdowns in them. That works out to a 32.0% target share, though, including a 13.1-yard average depth of target and a 60.4% air yards share. He's really the most intriguing Patriot other than Newton by a mile.

Damien Harris ($13,500) is salaried at a point where you'd think he's a lead back, but he has played -- at most -- 40.4% of the team's snaps in his four games and most recently played 30.1% last week. He seems to have a soft cap of 20 to 22 snaps right now and is a passing-game afterthought. For him to pay off, he'll need multiple touchdowns or to have a touchdown while neither team scores much at all. His path to a huge game is limited, particularly at the salary. He has two 100-plus-yard rushing games but just 2 total catches.

Dart Considerations

Oh, boy. These two teams, more than any others, really, just rarely feature players, and both operate with backfield committees. It makes it hard to feel good about the dart throws that make single-game DFS what it is. We can still look here, but predictability is kind of out the window.

This is a weird sentence, but keep an eye on the injury report for kicker Nick Folk ($8,500). He rated out as a top-five play in 32.8% of the simulations, a top-four number and a similar number to Damiere Byrd ($9,000). Byrd has had spike games in targets (9 and 10) but most recently has had 4, 2, and 4. He runs virtually every route and plays a lot of snaps, so Byrd is a very intriguing dart play here against a weak pass defense. I think he's the most fun of the non-obvious skill position players in the game.

James White ($10,500) has a path to a 50% snap rate, as he's been there in about three of five games, and he could be a leverage play against a tough run defense. He has had two games with at least eight targets. The floor is virtually zero, though, and even the ceiling is limited due to his red zone role. He shouldn't be a priority play. Rex Burkhead ($10,000) played 49.2% of the snaps last game but had just 6 carries and a target.

Frank Gore ($7,000) has maxed out at 9.0 FanDuel points, and La'Mical Perine ($9,500) has maxed out at 12.6. Perine did play 49.1% of snaps last game while Gore played 38.6%. Looking for upside from a split backfield on a team with a 16.0-point implied team total isn't a good long-term play.

Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios ($8,500) should be non-factors with Mims and Perriman.

I hate trending into the "everybody is in play on a single-game slate" territory, so bear that in mind. You can build sturdy lineups by focusing on the top of the player pool for the most part. The question becomes with differentiation from the other lineups you're facing, especially if you're focused on Newton, Crowder, Flacco, and Meyers as your core.

That being said, you also can't really make a strong case to prioritize many (if any) other, lower-salaried plays. The best approach is probably to take a stand on Newton as the MVP.

The easiest way to differentiate without being silly is probably going to be still rostering Newton but someone else at the MVP spot, such as Crowder, Meyers, Perriman, Mims, or Flacco. They're less justifiable MVP candidates, but if Newton does put up the top score by a mile, you're going to struggle to differentiate anyway. The safe bet is Newton. The DGAF bet is to go elsewhere at MVP in some of your lineups.

If you're playing Newton at MVP, get weird elsewhere. If you don't, you have to get less weird. If the optimal lineup is Newton at MVP and some combination of the receivers with better workloads, then it'll be a big pileup at the top of the leaderboard anyway. With how weird NFL games can get, I'd rather leave salary on the table when playing Newton at MVP (or playing a few dart throws) or just going elsewhere at MVP.