FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 9
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays in Week 9.
Josh Allen ($9,000 on FanDuel): In what looked to be a disastrous Week 8 fantasy performance for Allen after failing to score any touchdowns in the first half against the Dolphins, he eventually finished with 29.46 FanDuel points, his fourth time exceeding 29 points in seven games. Despite the game being close for three quarters, the Bills ultimately pulled away in the fourth to win by multiple scores.
Similar to last week, Buffalo is once again a heavy favorite (14.5 points), this time facing the dumpster fire known as the Jacksonville Jaguars. That lofty point spread is especially telling given that the Bills are also on the road.
There's clear blowout risk here -- two of Allen's worst fantasy days came in lopsided shutouts -- but that's easier to stomach on a slate that may not be ripe with shootouts anyway, as no game total cracks 50 points this week.
Outside of that, the matchup is excellent, too. According to numberFire's schedule-adjusted rankings, the Jaguars are 32nd in total defense and 32nd in pass defense.
Allen is the top quarterback in numberFire's projections.
Lamar Jackson ($8,300): Allen is the only quarterback who has averaged more FanDuel points per game than Jackson on the slate, and while Jackson's had only two spike weeks, those performances resulted in 41.88 and 34.26 points.
Unsurprisingly, he continues to lead all signal-callers in rushing yards, averaging 10.9 carries and 68.6 rushing yards per game.
Jackson ranks second in numberFire's quarterback projections, and only he and Allen are pegged for 25-plus points.
But what stands out about this particular contest is the minuscule 1.5-point spread in favor of the visiting Chargers, suggesting a back-and-forth game. Additionally, this rates as the week's best game in terms of pace, per our Brandon Gdula.
In short, at least on paper, this could be the best overall game environment on the board.
That puts both signal-callers in play, though you can admittedly nitpick both guys, too.
Beginning with Hurts, it hasn't exactly been a smooth ride, but he ranks fifth among quarterbacks in FanDuel points per game (25.24), and only Lamar Jackson has more rushing yardage at the position.
However, Hurts is also coming off his worst fantasy performance of the season, as the Eagles absolutely dominated the hapless Lions with a run-heavy attack in Week 8, leading to Hurts attempting just 14 passes.
The Chargers have a well-documented weakness in defending the run, too, ranking 32nd in schedule-adjusted rush defense. This would suggest that Philadelphia could try a similar game plan and lean on the running game again this week, theoretically lowering Hurts' fantasy upside once again.
That being said, if this game plays out as the betting lines suggest, passing volume shouldn't be an issue this time around. After all, the Chargers are the ones favored, and Herbert and friends should be able to do some damage against the Eagles' middle-of-the-pack pass defense.
And speaking of Herbert, he's coming off back-to-back clunkers, which may lead to him flying under the radar a bit this weekend.
Let's not forget that he's cracked 30 FanDuel points twice this season off a pair of 4-touchdown performances, so he's more than capable of delivering a tournament-winning score when games shoot out. And while Herbert may not run a whole lot, he's averaging 40.14 pass attempts per game, which ranks as the third-most behind only Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.
Given their up-and-down campaigns, there are clear risks with both Hurts and Herbert, but we shouldn't let recency bias sway us from considering them in Week 9.
Austin Ekeler ($9,000): Assuming Christian McCaffrey is out again this week, it's Alvin Kamara ($9,400), Dalvin Cook ($8,800), and Ekeler who top the position in salary, and they're also top three in numberFire's projections.
In terms of volume, Kamara and Cook are unmatched on this slate, but it may be Ekeler who has the clearest path to a spike week. The Saints will turn to Trevor Siemian this week at quarterback, and it's unclear how that will affect Kamara's production. Meanwhile, Cook's Vikings have a middling implied total as 6.0-point underdogs to the Ravens.
On the other hand, Ekeler is involved in the aforementioned inviting matchup between the Chargers and Eagles. His 24.0 adjusted opportunities per game (carries plus 2x targets) ranks eighth this season, and no one is projected for more targets at the position, making him perfect to use in game stacks.
Ekeler's already enjoyed a career-high in rushing touchdowns (5) due to improved red zone usage this year, too, as he's tied for the league's sixth-most carries inside the 20-yard line this year.
The defensive matchup also checks out for Ekeler, as Philadelphia ranks 25th in schedule-adjusted rush defense.
Among running backs, only Derrick Henry has averaged more FanDuel points per game than Ekeler this season (19.52).
Ezekiel Elliott ($8,200): Although Tony Pollard isn't going anywhere in this Cowboys rushing attack, Elliott is still seeing the vast majority of work, ranking seventh in adjusted opportunities per game (24.3) and fourth in snap rate (72.3%) at the position.
Dallas hasn't been afraid to lean on the running game this year, and that's exactly what we could see against Denver, where the Cowboys are 9.5-point home favorites. The Broncos also rank 24th in adjusted rush defense, giving the Cowboys even more incentive to run.
All three of Elliott's performances of 20-plus FanDuel points came in positive game scripts where the Cowboys won by multiple scores (Weeks 3-5) and were against opponents with bottom-third adjusted rush defenses. While he didn't see an uptick in overall opportunities in those contests, he was used relentlessly near the goal line, averaging five red zone carries per game over that span. Four of his five rushing touchdowns came in those weeks, and he also notched a red zone receiving score, too.
Elliott figures to be used similarly in this spot and has a great chance to add to his touchdown tally on Sunday.
Joe Mixon ($7,400): After ceding some work to Samaje Perine in a Week 7 blowout, Mixon was back to his usual workload in a close loss to the Jets last week, logging 24 adjusted opportunities with a 75.9% snap rate. That's right around where he's been for most of the season, putting him at similar volume to Ekeler and Elliott but at a far lower salary.
However, there isn't anything special about Mixon's matchup against Cleveland, which rates as one of the slowest-paced games on the slate. That said, the Bengals are slight favorites at home, so the workload should be there for Mixon, and this game still has a respectable 47.0 total.
Myles Gaskin ($6,100): Gaskins projects as the top running back value in numberFire's model, and that's due to his workload when Malcolm Brown has been injured. Brown barely played or was absent across Weeks 5, 7, and 8, and in those games, Gaskins averaged 22.7 adjusted opportunities with FanDuel scores of 26.9, 15.7, and 7.0 points.
Even the lowly Dolphins find themselves favored by 5.5 points at home against the Texans, which says more about Houston than anything else. The Texans struggle on both sides of the ball, so the Dolphins should have plenty of scoring opportunities, and Gaskins could be one of the beneficiaries against Houston's 26th-ranked adjusted run defense.
Tyreek Hill ($8,500): While Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense have hit a snag lately, it hasn't hurt Hill's voluminous role. Hill is coming off a season-high 18 targets in Week 8, and he's now sailed way past Travis Kelce ($7,800) in targets, boasting a 28.0% target share and 37.0% air yards share.
Particularly with Davante Adams ($9,000) seeing a noticeable downgrade with Aaron Rodgers out, Hill is arguably the top wideout on the board, and he leads the way in numberFire's projections. There's obviously far less shootout potential now against Green Bay, which could theoretically hurt Hill, too, but the Packers are still missing top corner Jaire Alexander and Kansas City boasts a 27.75 implied total.
Yet Diggs remains Josh Allen's favorite pass-catcher in this Buffalo offense, owning a 24.3% target share and 30.4% air yards share, numbers which suggest he should have bigger days ahead. That could come this week against a woeful Jacksonville defense. A blowout is on the table, of course, but the Bills have a slate-best 31.50 implied total, and Diggs is one of the best candidates to cash in.
Jaylen Waddle ($6,100): DeVante Parker suffered a setback this week and is expected to miss Sunday's game versus the Texans. With Will Fuller still out, that leaves Waddle and Mike Gesicki ($6,500) as the top options for Tua Tagovailoa.
When Parker was out in Weeks 6 and 7, Waddle averaged a healthy 10.5 targets with a 24.1% target share and 26.8% air yards share. As noted regarding Gaskins earlier, the Texans are bad against the run, but they haven't been so hot against the pass, either, ranking 26th in that department.
As of this writing, Waddle projects as the very best value at the position, and that's without accounting for Parker's absence.
Kadarius Toney ($5,700): Due to a lack of snaps early in the season followed by Toney's recent injuries, we've only gotten flashes of Toney's tantalizing fantasy potential, with the obvious highlight being his 10-catch, 189-yard outburst against the Cowboys in Week 5.
Although Toney is still dealing with a thumb issue that's limited him in practice this week, he seems to be trending toward playing, and he could be one of the last men standing on a team missing Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley, Dante Pettis, and potentially Kenny Golladay.
While this might not be the most exciting game environment against Las Vegas, the Raiders have been a below-average defense, ranking 23rd in adjusted pass defense. Toney projects as the top wideout value among players at sub-$6,000 salaries, per our algorithm.
Darren Waller ($6,800): With Travis Kelce's production dipping of late, it's Waller who emerges as the top-projected tight end in numberFire's model. At his sub-$7,000 salary, he also rates as the best point-per-dollar value, too.
Waller hasn't blown up for a big game since Week 1's 21.5-point outburst off a ridiculous 19 targets, but even if we throw out that game, he's still averaged a 20.2% target share across his other five games with an 88.5% snap rate and 88.9% route rate. He should continue to be the Raiders' top pass-catcher against the Giants.
Dan Arnold ($5,100): While Arnold doesn't pop in our projections, that's probably only because they haven't accounted for Arnold's growing role yet. Since seeing a bump in snaps in Week 5, he's enjoyed an 18.4% target share over the last three games, ranking second on the team over that span.
Playing for the Jaguars won't help Arnold's chances of finding the end zone -- particularly against a tough Buffalo defense -- but he's now cracked 60 receiving yards twice in the past three games, and Trevor Lawrence will almost certainly be piling up pass attempts again in a negative game script.
Dallas D/ST ($3,900): We typically don't find strong defenses in the sub-$4,000 range, but the Cowboys have performed well this season, ranking seventh in adjusted total defense and eighth against the pass, according to our metrics.
While Dallas has been in the middle of the pack when it comes to sacks, Teddy Bridgewater has the eighth-highest sack rate this season (7.9%), and he figures to be dropping back often as a heavy underdog. The Cowboys project as a top-three value this weekend.
Kansas City D/ST ($3,300): It's no secret Kansas City's defense has been one of the absolute worst units in 2021, and they rank 30th overall in our schedule-adjusted metrics. So, I don't trust them for one second, but they'll now face Jordan Love in his first career start. Love's attempted seven career passes, all of which came in a Week 1 blowout. That's it.
Sadly, it really wouldn't be shocking to see the Chiefs' defense submit another dud. But they have the third-lowest salary on the board -- helping you spend up at other positions -- and if Mahomes looks more like himself in this one, it could force Love into a negative game script that results in sacks and turnovers.