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

I'd love to sit here and tell you we know how Week 9 is going to play out. It's, ya know, kinda my job to predict what's going to happen.

But it's guessing szn, friends.

How will the Green Bay Packers' offense fare with Jordan Love? Great question.

Will Alvin Kamara's passing-game usage dry up with Jameis Winston sidelined? Wish I could tell ya.

How much work will Christian McCaffrey get if he's able to return? Your guess is as good as mine.

We can obviously make educated guesses in all of these scenarios. But they're just that: guesses.

Our job today is to run through those educated guesses and outline what they mean for a player's range of outcomes on Sunday's main daily fantasy football slate. A low floor isn't a bad thing if it comes with a path to upside, and some of these shaky situations will have that this week.

As such, let's run through all the question marks in play this week and outline their impact on things from a DFS perspective.

All You Need Is (Information on) Love

This Packers versus Kansas City Chiefs game was shaping up to be the game stack to end all game stacks. Then we lost Aaron Rodgers, and not only did it put the Packers in limbo, but it hurts the Chiefs, too.

Even with Rodgers, the Packers entered Week 9 ranked dead last in pace, according to numberFire's Brandon Gdula. That was while ranking 16th in situation-neutral pass rate, per Gdula's numbers, and that's almost certainly to go down.

The Packers have shown a willingness to lean on the run when their passing game isn't at full strength. With Davante Adams and Allen Lazard out last week, the Packers' early-down first-half pass rate was 41.9%; it was 56.5% with Adams in the lineup. You can bet they'll lean on the rush again with Love at the helm.

In other words, we're taking a team that operates at a snail's pace and making them even slower. That hurts the outlook for everybody tied to this game on both sides. We can still consider Patrick Mahomes with the Packers' defense depleted and Tyreek Hill thanks to his meaty target share, but the secondary options get knocked down a peg or two.

As for the Packers, you'd think an increased reliance on the rush would put Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon on the map. It might boost their floor. It's just not ideal for their ceilings.

In order to generate a ceiling in DFS, you need to stack up yardage and touchdowns. The second half of that equation gets harder with a quarterback downgrade.

Jones' salary of $8,500 on FanDuel is based on having one of the league's best passers as his quarterback, and that's no longer the case. Dillon's is far more forgiving at $5,200, but the odds either of these guys burns you for not using them went down when Rodgers was ruled out.

The same line of thinking applies to the pass-catchers. Even with Adams back off the COVID list, his $9,000 salary is much higher than you'd assign to someone with questionable quarterback play. The salary is forgiving on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but if Valdes-Scantling was frustrating with Rodgers, it's tough to see that changing with Love. One player being out has ripple effects across the entire game.

Potentially the only person worthy of a slight bump up here is Darrel Williams. Even though he lost some early looks to Derrick Gore last week, Williams still topped 100 yards for the first time this year and had a season-high 6 targets. A positive game script against a meh rush defense could boost his appeal at $6,700. Everybody else, though, can get knocked down at least half a peg due to what is likely to be a slower, less competitive game.

The Jameis-Less Saints

We still don't officially know who will start for the Saints this week. But Thursday's practice made it seem likely it'd be Taysom Hill. (UPDATE: Trevor Siemian is now likely to start this week. We should expect the Saints to maintain their run-centric approach, though the efficiency marks may decline even a bit more than projected under Hill. After entering last week, Siemiena targeted Alvin Kamara on 3 of 29 attempts, or 10.3%.)

It could still be Trevor Siemian, but we should plan around Hill starting here.

If Hill does start, we know what to expect. Even with Winston starting, the Saints have been running the Taysom Hill offense this year.

Last year, Hill started four games. In one of those, the opposing team was starting a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback, so we can toss that out. In the other three games, the Saints' early-down first-half pass rate was nearly identical to what it has been this year.

Split Saints' Pass Rate
With Hill Starting 50.0%
With Winston Starting 49.2%

Sean Payton was more afraid of Jameis than opposing defenses were this year.

The efficiency was similar, too. Winston this year averaged 0.16 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. This is numberFire's expected-points metric which includes deductions for expected points lost on sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Hill was at 0.11 last year, right around league average.

In other words, they're going to be similar to what they did with Hill last year and what they looked like under Winston this year. That means we can cross off everybody except for Hill and Kamara.

Kamara's the guy experiencing the biggest difference between the two splits. In the three relevant games with Hill, Kamara averaged 78.7 yards from scrimmage per game; he's at 105.6 this year. He also lost red-zone work to Hill as Kamara's red-zone share dipped to 28.0% in those games versus 43.3% this year.

It's important to note that Michael Thomas played with Hill last year and won't be around this year. As such, Kamara's target share with Hill is likely to be higher this time around. But the dip in red-zone work may be sticky.

When you combine those two red flags together, it significantly dents Kamara's appeal at $9,400. He's not out of play as he'll likely still be a focal point for the passing game, but this absolutely hurts his outlook.

As for Hill, it's a question of upside. He showed last year he had the floor, scoring at least 19.9 FanDuel points in every non-Denver game he started. But he also never topped 24.2, and that was with Thomas in the fold. Rushing in quarterbacks is great, but if it's just rushing, there's something to be desired.

Hill is an option; he's a rushing quarterback at home against a leaky defense. But he's not someone we must use as we can likely find higher ceilings elsewhere.

The Depleted Cardinals

We don't know what the Arizona Cardinals will look like on Sunday. But we know it'll be different.

As of now, we've got:

1. A.J. Green on the COVID list

2. Kyler Murray missing practice with an ankle injury

3. DeAndre Hopkins sitting out due to his hamstring.

Green tested positive, which puts him in a hole in terms of getting cleared for Sunday. Typically, that'd open up a bunch in what is typically a spread-out offense.

It just wouldn't matter if Murray couldn't play.

As of now, it does seem like Murray has a good shot to suit up. He has been optimistic, and Kliff Kingsbury said Murray could play without practicing. The ankle injury is enough to downgrade Murray, but if he's able to throw, that'd keep us in on the pass-catchers.

Hopkins played -- at times -- through the hamstring issue last week and has already played this year without practicing. That could allow him to play, as well, forcing us to plan around all scenarios.

If Murray sits, we avoid this offense no matter what. But if he plays, we can take a look thanks to the targets Green leaves behind.

Assuming Hopkins plays, then our most desirable path seems to be Rondale Moore. Moore is averaging a healthy 2.4 yards per route run, per Next-Gen Stats, meaning every extra route he gets is worth a bunch. If Hopkins plays, we should want to get access without breaking the bank, and Moore would grade out well there.

If Hopkins sits, that makes Christian Kirk extra attractive. Kirk is already third on the team in total targets and red-zone targets while sitting second in deep targets. He'd be the top healthy guy in each category if Green and Hopkins sit. He'd serve as a pivot off of Moore at $5,300, and he's in the same salary tier as a couple other receivers who project to be popular. Moore would still be a fully fine option, and I'd never talk you out of him. But Kirk would be a spectacular tournament pivot.

In those lineups, you can consider George Kittle as a bring-back option. Kyle Shanahan said last week that he expected Kittle to return in Week 9, meaning Kittle's health is fully in order. Kittle had 22.7% of the targets at the time of his injury, a massive number for a tight end with a $6,000 salary. Assuming we don't hear anything to kill the vibe before Sunday, Kittle is among the best tight-end options on the slate.

The Browns Without Odell Beckham

On one hand, we do have data on the Cleveland Browns without Odell Beckham, which is key following his release on Friday. It's just tough to tell how relevant that data is.

As you likely know, the Browns have performed better without Beckham on the field than with him since he arrived in Cleveland. Baker Mayfield has averaged -0.06 EPA per drop back with Beckham on the field the past 3 seasons versus 0.11 without him, per Next-Gen Stats. It's a sample of 893 passing snaps with him versus 477 without, so it's not a small sample.

The problem is that Mayfield wasn't dealing with a shoulder injury for most of those off splits. His EPA per drop back was -0.12 last week, dragging his season-long mark down to -0.02. We haven't seen him play a game post-injury without Beckham, so we've got two key forces dragging Mayfield in opposite directions.

The positive is that Mayfield wasn't totally broken last week. His Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) was -5.4%, but that was impacted by 6 drops on 31 attempts. His adjusted completion percentage was 83.9%, per PFF, so it could have been a better day than it was.

Mayfield's being competent there is what allows us to utilize Jarvis Landry this week at $5,900. Landry had 10 targets last week, 3 of which were deep, and that was with Beckham in the lineup. The Cincinnati Bengals just let up 9 targets and 84 yards to Jamison Crowder last week, meaning Landry should have the yardage upside to justify a slot in our lineups.

In our Landry lineups, we can absolutely pair him with a Bengals skill player. We just don't want to get too crazy with this game grading out as the slowest on the slate, per Gdula's numbers.

The best pairing may be Joe Mixon. With Chris Evans out last week, Mixon had five targets, his second-highest mark of the year. He has shown plenty of yardage upside with 150-plus yards from scrimmage twice already, and his salary is easy to get to at $7,400. Ja'Marr Chase is the clear 1B to Mixon's 1A in this scenario, and both are firmly on the radar whether paired with Landry or not. Tee Higgins is a tier below those two due to the production gap and a still-lofty $6,600 salary.

Return of the Dak

It hasn't been confirmed yet, but all signs point toward Dak Prescott returning for the Dallas Cowboys this week. It's just in time to prop up the key pieces on this team.

Dallas is facing the Denver Broncos. Even when Von Miller was there, they were underperforming relative to expectations. They rank 13th in schedule-adjusted passing defense, according to numberFire's metrics, and 24th against the rush. We can attack them when the opposing offense is good enough, and you can bet your booty this one is.

Given the spread and the Broncos' struggles against the rush, we should be drawn immediately toward Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has averaged 99.9 yards from scrimmage per game this year, and he has gotten 112-plus in 4 straight games with Prescott. He's a legit featured back in an elite offense at $8,200, making him a core play this week.

The pass-catchers are a bit muddier. Not only is Michael Gallup likely to return, but now CeeDee Lamb is dealing with a sprained ankle. Blake Jarwin seems to be trending toward sitting.

Typically when a receiver as good as Lamb sits, it hurts the appeal of the entire offense because of how much he elevates those around him. Given the Cowboys' depth, though, it's less of a concern. It'd allow us to slobber over Amari Cooper and save some salary on Gallup at $5,000, assuming he's activated.

If Lamb plays through the injury (which is still possible despite his missed practice Thursday), all three receivers are in play. It just knocks their range of outcomes down a tick across the board. They'll be closer to rotational plays than core staples.

It'd also likely make Elliott the top stacking partner with Prescott. Although you won't get a ton of double-dipping opportunities, Elliott does have 20.5% of the red-zone targets for the season. They both seem under-salaried, so pairing the two together prevents you from having to guess which receiver will erupt.

When utilizing the Cowboys, the clear bring-back is Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy returned last week to just four targets, but one was in the red zone and one was deep. Back in Week 1, Jeudy racked up seven total targets with three deep before leaving midway through the third quarter. His workload is likely second to just Landry among the receivers in the $5,000 range.

The Ravens' Pass-Catching Arsenal

With Sammy Watkins returning to practice Thursday, it's possible we'll get to see the Baltimore Ravens' passing game at full throat for the first time. But whether Watkins goes or not, Lamar Jackson is the top quarterback on the slate.

Despite injuries to both Watkins and Rashod Bateman, Jackson's passing volume has been solid. He has attempted 26-plus passes in every game, averaging 32.1 per game. That's up from marks of 25.1 and 26.7 in 2020 and 2019, respectively. When those passes go an average of 10.5 yards downfield, there's a lot of juice in them.

Jackson's doing this while still averaging 68.6 rushing yards per game, which gives him both a massive floor and a lofty ceiling. Put it up against a Minnesota Vikings defense that just lost Danielle Hunter, and it's a perfect recipe for loading up on Jackson at $8,300.

We don't know what the targets will look like if Watkins is able to return. We can likely assume that Marquise Brown will be getting downfield looks, though, which is key against this defense. The Vikings' defense has let up the fifth-highest aDOT in the league, and Brown has handled 47.1% of the team's deep targets. That number has actually increased in two games with Bateman.

Past 2 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Marquise Brown 27.9% 55.6% 0.0%
Mark Andrews 19.1% 16.7% 100.0%
Rashod Bateman 17.7% 5.6% 0.0%

Watkins was getting deep volume before his injury, but Brown has averaged 3.3 deep targets per game in full contests with Watkins. Brown's the ideal stacking partner with Jackson no matter what.

Bateman's outlook is more dependent on Watkins. As you can see, he didn't get many high-leverage targets his first two games. Then Watkins' return could hurt the overall target share, as well. Bateman's $5,300 salary is low enough to make him tempting regardless, but the risk goes up significantly if Watkins is in the fold.

For the Jackson lineups, you have at least three -- and potentially four -- bring-back options. That's a bit of a headache, honestly. The plus is that any of the four could come through.

From a workload perspective, Dalvin Cook stands out. Unless we assume McCaffrey returns to a full workload, Cook's 118.3 yards from scrimmage per game in his 4 full games is more than 10 yards clear of any other back on the slate in their most relevant sample.

The problem is the matchup. No running back has hit 60 rushing yards against them yet, in part because nobody tries to run on them (a max of 15 attempts). Cook will likely set a new high there, keeping him in the fold, but the matchup is a downgrade.

That could funnel us toward the passing game. There, we have an incentive to check out all three of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Tyler Conklin.

Thielen started the year out being a yardage suck, being held to 50 or fewer yards in 4 of the first 5 games. The deep targets have started to trickle more his way, though.

Full Season Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Justin Jefferson 24.1% 38.2% 24.1%
Adam Thielen 22.5% 32.4% 27.6%
KJ Osborn 14.5% 14.7% 6.9%
Tyler Conklin 14.1% 8.8% 13.8%

Thanks to those deep looks, Thielen has 204 yards across the past 2 games. This puts Jefferson and him on equal footing, and we should treat them as such within our game stacks.

As for Conklin, he's one of the few lower-salaried tight ends this week who has a legit role. We've seen the Ravens let up yardage to non-elite tight ends this year, making Conklin a fine way to offset the salaries of Jackson and Brown if you want to spend up elsewhere.

Tyrod v. Tua

Only in DFS could a November game between a pair of one-win teams get you excited. But this one kinda does!

The Miami Dolphins versus Houston Texans was already interesting thanks to the Dolphins' competent offensive output in plus matchups recently. But things got spiced up on Thursday.

Now both sides have a viable quarterback play and logical pass-catching options. Giddy up.

On the Dolphins' side, we know that both DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle are going to get hefty volume. In the two games they've played with Tua Tagovailoa, they've combined for more than 56% of the team's targets. (UPDATE: Parker reportedly suffered a setback in practice and is now doubtful to play. In 2 games with Tagovailoa and without Parker, Waddle led with 24.4% of the targets while Mike Gesicki had 19.8%.)

Weeks 1 and 8 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
DeVante Parker 28.1% 22.2% 0.0%
Jaylen Waddle 28.1% 44.4% 80.0%
Mike Gesicki 9.4% 11.1% 20.0%

The shares make both high-quality targets in the low-$6,000 range. Between the two, I'd favor Parker.

Although Waddle has gotten more high-leverage targets, it's Parker who has converted on his looks. He has 80-plus yards in both games while Waddle has 90 between the 2 games combined. That production matters. I'm fully willing to use Waddle because of the volume, but Parker holds the edge.

The bigger question mark on this team is Myles Gaskin. He has averaged 13.5 carries and 4.0 targets in 2 games with Malcom Brown banged up, which is respectable volume. Still, Gaskin didn't top 80 yards in either game, and he hasn't hit the century mark yet this year. The matchup puts Gaskin in play, but there are still obvious paths to failure thanks to the team's inability to move the ball on the ground.

With Tyrod Taylor back, it's clearly arrows up on Brandin Cooks. He has 29.2% of the team's targets this year; it just hasn't always mattered due to sub-par quarterback play. That's less of a concern now.

We do want to keep a couple things in mind here, though. Primarily, Cooks tends to feast indoors on turf, which isn't in play this weekend. All 4 of his games with 80-plus receiving yards this year came on turf, though he did get to 78 in 1 game on grass. Additionally, his $6,800 salary is just $100 lower than Amari Cooper, so it's not as if Cooks has no competition in his salary tier.

You can and should still get to Cooks in your lineups with Parker and Waddle. It's just important not to get too far ahead of ourselves when there are still some downsides with the situation. Either way, this is a fun game that suddenly grades out well for mini stacks at receiver.

A Tricky Potential Shootout

On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Los Angeles Chargers should be a prime game to stack. It's a high total with a tight spread in a game where we know where the ball is going.

The style of defense each team plays, though, puts a lid on the enthusiasm.

Both the Eagles and Chargers sell out to limit downfield pass attempts against them. The Eagles' defense has faced the lowest aDOT by opposing passers. Although the Chargers' aDOT allowed is about league average, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 6 of 31 deep attempts against them (19.4%) on the year. That hurts the upside of both passing offenses.

In theory, it'd be a great spot to buy into Mike Williams and Justin Herbert after a couple of down games. It still might be, and they're firmly in consideration. But the Eagles' defensive philosophy does throw some cold water on the situation.

The two guys who stand out despite this specific concern are Austin Ekeler and Dallas Goedert.

Ekeler's salary is $9,000, which is mighty lofty. But the Eagles rank just 25th against the rush, and Ekeler has proven he has upside. He has 100-plus yards from scrimmage in 5 of 7 games, and he has at least half of the team's red-zone opportunities in 3 straight games. His workload falls short of Dalvin Cook's, but given the gap in their respective matchups, I'd give the edge to Ekeler.

As for Goedert, his role has been superb since the Zach Ertz trade. In 2 games, Goedert leads with 25.5% of the targets and has topped 70 yards both times. It's usually hard to find that yardage upside at tight end. It puts Goedert on par with or ahead of Kittle among the non-elite tight end options for the week.

The Giants' Injury Landslide

Even with Kenny Golladay returning to practice Thursday, we know the New York Giants are banged up entering the week. Sometimes, that can lead to a tipping point where we want to avoid the entire offense. Here, though, we can still have some level of enthusiasm.

That largely comes from having confidence in where the ball is going. That's to Kadarius Toney and Devontae Booker, assuming Saquon Barkley isn't able to return from the COVID-19 list before kickoff. (UPDATE: Barkley was able to practice Friday, indicating a return is possible this week, assuming his ankle is good to go. If Barkley is a full-go in practice Friday, it's worth noting he averaged 96.3 yards from scrimmage in full games before his injury. His 50.0% red-zone share would rank first on the slate. Monitor reports around Barkley's workload, and if it seems like he'll be at full strength, he's firmly a consideration at $7,500.)

Toney's role was limited last week in his first game off an ankle injury, and he hurt his thumb late. He's been able to log limited sessions this week, though, putting him on track to be healthier than he was in Week 9 being one week further removed from the ankle injury.

Toney has played at least half the snaps in 4 games this year. In those games, he has 21.3% of the team's overall targets, and he has gotten 9 or more twice. With Sterling Shepard likely sidelined, we can keep Toney in our rotation at $5,700.

As for Booker, we know that he's limited. He has had less than 70 yards in 2 of 3 games with Barkley sidelined. He did, though, get to 125 on Monday, and now both Barkley and Gary Brightwell are on the COVID-19 list. It's within the range of outcomes that Booker plays every snap on Sunday.

As such, we should be in on him at $6,300. There are a couple guys around him with appeal -- the aforementioned Darrel Williams along with the soon-to-be-mentioned Zack Moss and Damien Harris -- but we can be in on Booker once again.

On the Las Vegas Raiders' side, it's hard to know what this offense will look like without Henry Ruggs. He was the primary field-stretcher on the team, and losing that will tighten coverage on Darren Waller. Waller's a decent bet for 10 targets (numberFire projects him for 8.7), and his salary is reasonable at $6,800. He'd be the main target on this team. We should just keep in mind it's also possible the offense takes a step back.

Zack Moss' High-Leverage Role

The two things we want most in a back for fantasy are passing-game usage and touchdown upside. Zack Moss is quietly accumulating both.

Moss has at least 4 targets in 3 straight games, accounting for 13.6% of the team's targets in that time. With Dawson Knox sidelined and Cole Beasley banged up, they need someone to soak up underneath volume, and Moss has been that guy of late.

The red-zone role is a bit more hidden. In 5 games as the 1A back, Moss has 28.6% of the red-zone usage, which is an underwhelming number for a running back. But he has also played 73% of the red-zone snaps in that time, per Next-Gen Stats, meaning he's at least in position to score. Moss hasn't found the end zone since Week 4, but the snap rate says that could well change.

Even with a massive spread, you can feel secure with the Buffalo Bills' passing attack. They don't tend to take their foot off the gas until things are way out of hand. But Moss is another route for exposure to the offense at just $6,000, and I'm fine taking that route despite his shortcomings.

Monitoring Christian McCaffrey

Because Christian McCaffrey is on injured reserve, the Carolina Panthers don't need to list his practice status. But from the sounds of it, he has been limited at best.

McCaffrey might be activated for this game. The Panthers' offense could certainly use him. But this isn't the same situation as the Kansas City Chiefs game last year where he had enough reps in practice to confidently project him to have his full role. As such, it's tough to justify his $10,000 salary.

The complicating factor is that Sam Darnold is banged up, too, dealing with a concussion and a shoulder issue. That could force P.J. Walker into the lineup, and Walker has struggled greatly when forced into the lineup both last year and this year. That would push all Panthers out of play and put a massive dent in the already-underwhelming New England Patriots skill-player corps.

The exception is Damien Harris. Harris has played three full games since James White's injury. In those, he has averaged 100.3 yards from scrimmage per game and has 44.7% of the team's red-zone looks. He feasts in a positive script, and the Patriots are more likely to get that with Darnold banged up.

I've been hesitant on Harris all year due to his lack of pass-catching work. But of the guys who primarily just catch passes (himself, Nick Chubb, and Elijah Mitchell), Harris has the lowest salary at $6,600 and is on the team with the spread most heavily in his favor. He's also facing the league's 23rd-ranked rush defense. As such, Harris is likely to be a core play for me for the first time all season.