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Inside the Matchup

Week 9

By: Andy Swanson | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green



Sunday Early:


LV @ NYG | ATL @ NO | BUF @ JAX | NE @ CAR

Sunday Late:

LAC @ PHI | ARI @ SF | GB @ KC | TEN @ LAR



- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Jets @ Colts - (Swanson)
Line: IND -10.5
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After years and years of missed draft picks and failed veteran free agent signings, It looks like the Jets have finally found their quarterback of the future, after rookie Mike White completed 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Of course, I kid. While there might be a controversy between Zach Wilson and White later this season, one game does not make White the QB of the future, nor does it make him someone you should consider starting on your fantasy roster.

White’s performance was impressive. Arguably the most remarkable performance of the week when you consider it was the second-best debut performance in NFL History. But now the Colts have some tape to work with, and duplicating the feat on the road in primetime might be a bit much to ask for the former Western Kentucky star.

Despite head coach Robert Saleh sounding optimistic early in the week wide receiver Corey Davis is listed as Doubtful. That will leave Jamison Crowder and a cast of thousands to rotate at the receiver position including Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole and Denzel Mims.

On a negative note, the dynamic linebackers for the Colts, led by all-pro Darius Leonard, are skilled at covering opposing running backs out of the backfield and have not given up more than 35 yards to any RB in the passing game.

White made a living throwing to Jets running backs last week, taking advantage of an aggressive Bengals defense with throws to Michael Carter. He will no doubt look to continue to use his running backs in the passing game but will find far more of a resistance than the Bengals provided.

Starting strong safety, Khari Willis missed practice on Monday with a calf injury. Should Willis miss because of the short week, George Odum would step up in his place.

Veteran Jamison Crowder had a team-high nine targets among wide receivers and converted eight catches for 84 yards. The Colts have given up the sixth-most points to opposing WRs this season and the second-most touchdowns on the year. Crowder is not a sexy play, but that type of volume against a lousy secondary is hard to pass up, especially in PPR.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Carter was the RB1 last week in AFFL half-point PPR scoring after posting nine catches for 95 yards on a ridiculous 14 targets. He also added 77 rushing yards and a score on 15 carries.

He is clearly the running back to own on the Jets and a favorite target for Mike White out of the backfield. While we anticipate some catches for Carter, running the ball this week will prove much more of a challenge.

Only the Panthers have allowed fewer fantasy points per game than the Colts - a team that just limited Derrick Henry to 68 yards on 28 carries.

The Colts are 10.5 favorites at home in a game that could go sideways quickly for the Jets. I would be surprised to see Carter get more than 15 carries in this game, but he will likely get between five and ten targets. The question is will he be able to do much with those targets with Darius Leonard in coverage.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mike White (High-End)
RB2: Michael Carter (Low-End)
WR3: Jamison Crowder (Low-End)
TE2: Tyler Kroft (High-End)
Bench: Corey Davis

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Wentz comes in as the No.20 quarterback through eight weeks of play, with 18.7 fantasy points per game. Although he has 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions, he is actually averaging .2 fewer fantasy points per game than his last season with the Eagles.

If you take out the 7.8 point turd he dropped in Week 3 on the road against the Texans, he has at least 17 fantasy points in every game, including 22.3 in each of his last two. Not great, but certainly serviceable, making him a decent streaming option in deeper leagues and super-flex options.

The emergence of Michael Pittman Jr. as a WR1 is the story of the year for the Colts passing offense. Pittman has the size and speed to be a dominant WR in the NFL, and we are all starting to see it unfold on the field.

Pittman has three touchdowns and just under 200 receiving yards in his last two games, including a career-high 15 targets last week. He is the alpha dog and the favorite target for Wentz. Make sure he is in your lineup this week and every week going forward.

T.Y. Hilton is in the concussion protocol and will miss this game, and Parris Campbell is already out for the season. That leaves Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal as the two wide receivers to roster on the Colts.

Pascal is not at all sexy, but he does have 14 targets over the past two games and could see around eight targets on Thursday.

The Jets have been surprisingly good against wide receivers this season as opponents have found far more success on the ground. No opposing WR has topped 100 yards or scored more than two touchdowns in a game (The Bengals trio did combine for two scores and 180 yards last week).

This is not a great matchup for the Colts passing game, but you still should feel comfortable with Pittman Jr., and Pascal is worth a flyer as a flex in very deep leagues.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Jonathan Taylor fantasy managers should be salivating at the thought of their stud running back taking on the Jets at home in primetime.

The Jets rank first in fantasy points allowed to running backs, with 13 total touchdowns and just over 1000 total yards in seven games. Although Joe Mixon struggled with 33 rushing yards on 14 carries, he did add a rushing score and 4/58/1 in the air.

Look for Taylor to top 100 total yards with a score or two, making him an elite start in all formats.

All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson was limited in practice with a toe injury, but he should be good to go. There are no other injuries on the Colts side of the ball that should affect this game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz (High-End)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (Elite)
WR1: Michael Pittman Jr. (Low-End)
WR3: Zach Pascal (Low-End)
TE2: Mo Alie-Cox (High-End)

Prediction: Indianapolis 28, New York 10 ^ Top

Texans at Dolphins - (Ilchuk)
Line: MIA -5.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Houston has been getting blown out on the regular and Davis Mills has been piling up late game numbers against backups playing prevent defense, which on its’ face is fine. The problem is that he’s been so bad leading up to that point. As Dean Wormer might say, “inconsistent, inaccurate, and mistake-prone is no way to go through life son.” This week, Tyrod Taylor has worked his way back into practice and is expected to start but plugging him into your lineup in his first game coming off a significant hamstring injury isn’t advisable.

Brandon Cooks is about the only receiver worth considering here. He’s got 70 targets on the season (no one else even has 30), over 50 catches and nearly 600 yards receiving. Again, all good on the surface, but the yards come in bunches and you never quite know when you’re going to get them. His yardage totals the last four weeks – 23, 89, 21, 83.

The truth is the Dolphins are not very good on defense, especially against the pass where they rank in the bottom five in the league in just about every category. I mean, this is the team that ended Jacksonville’s epic losing streak. Miami has yielded at least 30 points to their opponents in four of their eight games this season, but they haven’t played anyone as bad as the Texans.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Mark Ingram was carrying the mail in Houston before last week’s trade that sent him to New Orleans. What we saw last week was that there’s really no one to take his place. Rex Burkhead led the team in carries, but Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson were nowhere to be found. It remains to be seen how this all gets sorted out, so fantasy owners should not be shopping for running backs in Houston right now.

The Dolphins have actually been respectable against the run, allowing just 4.2 yards per carry on the season, and limited the Bills to just about 100 yards on the ground last week. But that could also be because it’s so darn easy to pass on them. This week is a chance for Miami to get right on defense.

Value Meter:
WR2: Brandin Cooks (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Rex Burkhead
BENCH: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Phillip Lindsay, RB David Johnson, WR Nico Collins, WR Chris Conley, WR Danny Amendola, TE Pharaoh Brown, TE Jordan Akins

Passing Game Thoughts: With the Deshaun Watson trade rumors behind him (for now), it certainly appears that Tua Tagovailoa will remain Miami’s starting QB for the rest of the season. But inconsistent play and constant injury concerns (finger, ribs) make him a frustrating fantasy play.

That being said, he gets the Texans this week, a team that is allowing over 30 points per game and ranks in the bottom third of the NFL in sacks, yards per attempt and passing TD’s allowed.

Jaylen Waddle has over 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 33 targets the last three weeks, and fellow WR DeVante Parker (hamstring) is averaging over 80 yards per game over the last two games. TE Mike Gesicki actually leads the team in receiving yards, and RB Myles Gaskin is averaging five catches per game and has three receiving TD’s on the season. If Tua’s injuries limit him or keep him out of the mix this week, Jacoby Brissett will fill in capably as a low-end QB2, though the whole set of skill players probably takes a hit in that case.

There are a few bright spots on this Texans defense, but only a few. For IDPers, LB Christian Kirksey is a young sideline-to-sideline tackling machine. CB Lonnie Johnson has three of the team’s seven interceptions, and DE Jonathan Greenard has seven of the team’s 15 sacks. But as a unit, this group isn’t stopping the Dolphins or any other team for very long.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Malcolm Brown had been trending towards workhorse status before being sidelined by injury. Gaskin stepped in and got 15 touches last week, including most of the 3rd down receiving work out of the backfield. Unfortunately, Salvon Ahmed continues to steal 8-10 touches per game, but until Brown returns, Gaskin is a low-end RB2 with a little added value in PPR leagues.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tua Tagovailoa (low-end)
QB2: Jacoby Brissett (low-end if he plays)
RB2: Myles Gaskin (low-end)
WR2: Jaylen Waddle (mid-range),
TE1: Mike Gesicki (low-end)
Bench: DeVante Parker, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Will Fuller, WR Preston Williams

Prediction: Dolphins 30, Texans 20 ^ Top

Broncos at Cowboys - (Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -10.0
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Teddy Bridgewater has been efficient (4th among NFL starters at 70%), but while he has posted two 300-yard passing efforts and turned in five multi-TD games, he has not been explosive, averaging less than 7.5 yards per attempt. In the team’s four wins, the formula has been to run the ball and rely on the short, quick-hitting, quick read passing game. That could be the answer this week and help keep Dallas’ explosive offense off the field.

But, with Von Miller traded to the Rams in recent days, a good Denver defense takes a hit. If the Broncos fall behind, they could be forced into a game of catch-up. Bridgewater can play that game and provide fantasy value as a low-end QB2. But it’s really just a question of whether he gets a chance, and the Cowboys inability to get to the passer is an added bonus. Courtland Sutton becomes a WR2 with upside in that scenario.

WR Jerry Jeudy should outproduce Tim Patrick in his second game back from an ankle injury, working the underneath routes that Bridgewater loves, making him a legit WR3 with upside as well.

With Noah Fant likely out on the COVID list, look for TE Albert Okwuegbunam, who stole some of Fant’s targets last week in two-TE sets, to have added value.

The Cowboys have been a mixed bag against the pass. One thing we know for sure, they can take the ball away. They lead the league with 11 interceptions on the season, and they are top ten in the NFL in opposing QB passer rating (87.8). However, they rank in the bottom half of the league (21st) allowing nearly 8.0 yards per attempt and yielding 13 scores through the air. They have also been vulnerable against TE’s and have struggled to consistently get the QB on the ground with just 12 sacks, amongst the worst in the NFL.

The goal for the Broncos will be to get the ball out of Bridgewater’s hands quickly. But if Dallas’ athletic linebackers can shut off the passing lanes and force Bridgewater to hold the ball, they could create issues for this Broncos passing attack.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: The Broncos have been a two-headed monster in the run game. Despite sharing the load, Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams both rank in the top 25 in the NFL in rushing yards (397 and 355 respectively), and both are averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. They can both add value in the passing game, averaging 2-3 receptions per game. Denver will try to establish the run early in this one, so I’m looking at Gordon (because of his scoring ability) as a low-end RB2, while Williams is a viable flex option.

The Cowboys defense has allowed 100+ rushing yards per game in three of their last four contests and are yielding 4.5 yards per carry on the season. If they can keep Gordon and Williams in check, that would put the ball in Teddy Bridgewater’s hands where Dallas can play to its’ strengths, forcing turnovers in the passing game. But if the Broncos can run the ball, Denver’s running backs will be the only marginal fantasy play in this offense.

Value Meter:
QB2: Teddy Bridgewater (low-end)
RB2: Melvin Gordon (low-end)
WR2: Courtland Sutton (mid-range)
WR3: Jerry Jeudy (mid-range)
TE2: Albert Okwuegbunam (high-end)
FLEX: RB Javonte Williams, WR Tim Patrick

Passing Game Thoughts: Dak Prescott was a full participant in practice this week and is expected to suit up and start after missing last week’s game against the Vikings. He’s an indisputable QB1 heading into Sunday.

Averaging 36 pass attempts per game and completing 73% of his passes at 8.4 yards per attempts, with 16 TD and just 4 INT in six games he’s as sure a thing as there is at QB right now, even coming off a calf injury.

His stable is loaded, too. CeeDee Lamb (ankle) is a WR1, leading one of the most explosive offenses in football in targets, receptions, yards, yards per catch and TD’s. He’s been particularly hot recently, averaging 100 yards per game and a score over the last three weeks.

Amari Cooper is right behind him in every category. He has 13 catches for 177 yards and a score over the last two weeks. WR3 Michael Gallup could return this week, but his replacement, Cedrick Wilson has made the most of his opportunity with seven catches for 126 yards and a score in the last two games. If Gallup isn’t ready to go, Wilson is a legitimate WR3/WR4 consideration.

TE Dalton Schultz has become one of Prescott’s most trusted pass catchers, drawing at least seven targets in each of the last five games, making him a starting consideration in 12-team leagues.

I could throw all kinds of stats at you, telling you how good this Broncos defense is against the pass. They have been very good, especially their young, athletic secondary. But with Von Miller being traded away to the Rams this week, it all changes. Miller had just 4.5 sacks on the season, but with him out of the picture, the dynamics of this unit completely change, and a good deal of pressure now shifts to that young secondary. They will have their hands full trying to cover all these weapons in addition to Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, who have combined for 36 catches this season.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Elliott is 6th in the NFL in rushing yards, and Pollard, perhaps the best No.2 (and capable #1) in the league, is just outside the top 20. Zeke is averaging just under 5 yards per carry, while Pollard is getting nearly 6 yards per tote! The offensive line is playing well, Dak’s arm has to be honored, and as I mentioned above, Denver no longer has their best defensive lineman. You can’t go wrong with either of these guys on your lineup this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high-end)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (mid-range)
RB3: Tony Pollard (high-end)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (high-end)
WR2: Amari Cooper (high-end)
WR3/WR4: Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup (low-end)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (low-end)

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Broncos 7 ^ Top

Browns @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: CIN -2.5
Total: 47.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After Case Keenum stepped in and led the Browns to victory on Thursday Night Football in Week 7, Baker Mayfield (shoulder) was back under center this past Sunday. It was about what we’ve come to expect: 20-for-31, 225 yards, 0 TDs. That’s the fourth time in his last six games that Mayfield has passed for less than 250 yards and one or fewer TDs. Whatever his toughness and intangibles may bring to the table, his inability to produce decent numbers has rendered him one of the worst fantasy quarterbacks out there.

Perhaps the biggest casualty has been Odell Beckham Jr. (1-6-0), who may have played his final down for Cleveland after his father posted a video critical of Mayfield. OBJ has been M.I.A. from practice this week while his agents talked with GM Andrew Berry about the receiver’s future. With or without him, Jarvis Landry (5-65-0) is the true top target for the Browns, though that designation is still tethered to modest production. Landry is dealing with a knee injury, but he should be active in Week 9.

Cincinnati was playing well defensively coming into last Sunday, but there’s no way to spin how bad they were in allowing Jets backup QB Mike White to pass for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset loss. To underscore how unexpected it was, consider this: the Bengals had given up seven passing TDs all season entering Week 8. Regardless of how Cincy is playing, the Browns’ passing game is in shambles, and Landry as a flex option is as good as it gets right now.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Mayfield wasn’t the only injured starter to return as Nick Chubb (16-61-0) was back following a two-game absence of his own. It was his lowest output of the season, and the Browns surprisingly shied away from the two-back approach they typically deploy with Kareem Hunt (calf) as Week 7 star D’Ernest Johnson had only five combined touches for 29 yards and a score. Chubb hit the Bengals for 124 yards and two TDs in his lone game against them in 2020, and he should rate as an RB1 against the seventh-ranked Cincy defense this Sunday. As for Johnson, his uncertain role makes him a dicey choice for a flex spot.

Value Meter:
RB1: Nick Chubb
Flex: D’Ernest Johnson
Flex: Jarvis Landry (inj-knee)
Bench: Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt (IR), Odell Beckham Jr.

Passing Game Thoughts: All season long, Joe Burrow has had an asterisk affixed to his strong play, and last Sunday, it bit him again. The asterisk is interceptions, and last year’s No. 1 overall pick threw his ninth of the season in the fourth quarter against the Jets, setting them up for the winning score. The 259 yards and three TDs were a satisfactory offset, but the mistakes remain an issue in his development. Burrow faced the Browns twice last year, averaging 361 yards, 3 TDs and 0.5 INTs per game. Looking back, they were doubtless the best two games of his rookie year.

He didn’t even have Ja’Marr Chase (3-32-1) back then, and the LSU product’s dynamic debut season rolls on with the first-rounder ranked in the NFL’s top five in receiving yards, touchdowns and YPC. He was quiet last week, allowing Tee Higgins (4-97-0) to be the focal point and deliver a season-high in yardage. The TDs continue to evade him, however, as Higgins hasn’t scored since Week 2. Even Tyler Boyd (5-69-1) got in on the action. That trio figures to give the Browns all they can handle, and C.J. Uzomah (4-33-0) is lurking as a threat as well.

In terms of yards allowed, the Browns have done a nice job this year with their 220.1 per game ranking seventh in the NFL. Where they’ve struggled is keeping opponents out of the end zone. Only Washington and Indy have given up more passing TDs than the Browns’ 17, which is a problem Cincinnati can exploit. Burrow and Chase are No. 1 plays to be sure. After that, Higgins is a borderline WR2/WR3 with Boyd a solid flex.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: After essentially splitting carries in the Week 7 blowout of Baltimore, Joe Mixon logged 91 yards and 2 TDs on 18 combined touches while Samaje Perine went without a carry and had two receptions for 16 yards. That shows you that Mixon is the featured back, and Perine will spell him now and then. Cleveland is among the toughest teams to run on, allowing 84.8 yards per game (3rd) and 3.5 yards per rush (T-1st) on the year. Even with that, Mixon offers low-end RB1 or strong RB2 value.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow
RB1/RB2: Joe Mixon
WR1: Ja’Marr Chase
WR2/WR3: Tee Higgins
Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Samaje Perine, C.J. Uzomah

Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 23 ^ Top

Vikings @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: BAL -6.0
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Minnesota’s offense never found its stride Sunday night, and that starts with Kirk Cousins, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 184 yards and a TD in a performance that was eerily reminiscent of his work against Cleveland in Week 4. It was the third time in four games that the veteran has managed just one TD pass, and over those three outings he has averaged just 221 yards passing. We know what Cousins is capable of on any given Sunday, though that’s a statement that cuts both ways.

Justin Jefferson (2-21-0) was held in check for the first time all season, though he did draw a couple of penalties. He also got banged up during the game but did return and should have no restrictions going forward. Jefferson has supplanted Adam Thielen (6-78-1) as the top receiver in Minnesota, though the second-year pro hasn’t had nearly as much action in the red zone with Thielen (6) doubling Jefferson in TDs (3). While their year-to-date totals are similar, Jefferson is the steadier weekly play. Tyler Conklin (5-57-0) has also emerged as the receiving threat at tight end they’d hoped Irv Smith (knee) would be before he was lost for the year.

Nobody in the NFL has allowed more yards per game through the air than Baltimore (296.1) thus far, and they are one of just six teams to yield more than 8.0 yards per attempt so it’s not as though they’re giving up tons of underneath throws. On paper, this looks like a good matchup for the Vikings. Then again, so did Dallas. View Cousins and Conklin as low-end No. 1s at their respective positions. Jefferson and Thielen are weekly plays regardless of whether you designate one or both as WR1s.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Dalvin Cook rushing 18 times for 78 yards in Week 8 is a bit of a Rorschach test -- did Minnesota failing to get their offense going result in a down game for Cook? or did a down game for Cook result in Minnesota failing to get their offense going? Whichever side of the chicken-or-egg scenario you favor, this much is clear: Cook got far fewer touches than we’re accustomed to seeing. Expect that to be course corrected in Week 9 against the Ravens, even though they rank fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (86.1) and 11th per carry (4.2). Cook remains an RB1.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Dalvin Cook
WR1: Justin Jefferson
WR2: Adam Thielen
TE1: Tyler Conklin
Bench: Alexander Mattison, K.J. Osborn

Passing Game Thoughts: In two games since his 442-yard, 4-TD evisceration of the Colts on Monday Night Football, Lamar Jackson has passed for 424 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs while being sacked eight times. His running has remained strong (20 carries, 139 yards in Weeks 7 and 8), but he hasn’t run for a touchdown since Week 2 -- he totaled seven TDs on the ground in each of his last two campaigns. Perhaps a week off to stew over their 41-17 loss to the Bengals will get Jackson and company locked back in.

If there was a positive footnote to that Week 8 beatdown it was the play of Rashod Bateman, who hauled in three passes for 80 yards in his second NFL game. Having the rookie turn into a reliable option opposite Marquise Brown (5-80-1) would be a huge deal for Baltimore, which has struggled to fill that spot. One such attempt was the signing of veteran Sammy Watkins (hamstring), who returned to practice Thursday but hasn’t played since Week 5 and looks like he might miss another game even after having the bye to rest. For now, Mark Andrews (3-48-0) remains the de facto 1a/1b target of choice with Brown.

The Vikings are one of five teams to have yielded fewer than 10 TD passes this season, which is good. They also let unheralded backup Cooper Rush throw for 325 yards and two TDs against them last Sunday night, which is bad. Even worse, the Vikings lost sack leader Danielle Hunter (pec) for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. As usual, Jackson and Andrews as quality No. 1 plays at their positions. Brown could fill a low-end WR2 slot of high-end WR3. Bateman might not be lineup worthy just yet, but he’s worth scooping off the waiver wire.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Lead back Latavius Murray (ankle) didn’t play in Week 7 due to an ankle injury and isn’t a sure bet to suit up this Sunday, either. If he does, Murray would be the lone playable option as a midrange flex. If he doesn’t, Devonta Freeman (4-14-1) is probably your best bet, though he’d be a bit of a stretch even as a flex. For reasons that remain unclear, Ty’Son Williams (2-10-0) ran just six times in the month of October, while Le’Veon Bell (5-5-0) has looked closer to 49 years of age than 29. The Vikings rank 21st against the run at 120.9 yards per game on 4.6 YPC.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
Flex: Latavius Murray (inj-ankle)
WR2: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Devonta Freeman, Rashod Bateman

Prediction: Ravens 38, Vikings 27 ^ Top

Raiders at Giants - (Ilchuk)
Line: LV -3.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Derek Carr is playing some of the best football of his career. He has passed for well over 300 yards in five of his seven games and has multiple TD’s in all but one. If he had any sort of rushing production he’d be an elite QB1 every week.

As for his receiving weapons, Henry Ruggs III’ Corvette and NFL career crashed and burned this week, but Darren Waller, arguably the best TE in the game right now, should be back from his ankle injury and is as good an option as any to take on Ruggs’ targets.

I love WR Hunter Renfrow, and apparently so does Carr. Renfrow has at least five targets in every game this year, and at least eight in four of the Raiders’ seven contests. He’s a low-end WR2 this week.

WR Bryan Edwards only averages 3-5 targets per game and Kenyan Drake has been less involved in the passing game since taking over more of the rushing load from the injured Josh Jacobs.

For all their struggles this year, the Giants actually rank in the top third of the league in sacks and interceptions. But they are allowing a completion percentage of nearly 69% and teams have scored on them 15 times through the air, both among the worst in the league. They tend to play shell coverage, which has kept everything in front of them and limited opponents to just 7.1 yards per attempt. But that forces the defense into long drives, and they must tackle to keep YAC yards down.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: With Josh Jacobs leaving the Week 7 game against the Eagles with a chest injury, Kenyan Drake stepped in with 14-69 rushing. Jacobs has had two weeks to heal and has practiced this week. He should be a RB2 with his average 13 carries per game. If he can’t go, look for Peyton Barber to take on the workhorse load with Kenyan Drake returning to 3rd down work as a receiver out of the backfield. New York is allowing 4.4 yards per carry, so expect a balanced attack from the Raiders.

Value Meter:
QB1: Derek Carr (low-end)
RB2: Josh Jacobs (mid-range)
WR2: Hunter Renfrow (low-end)
TE1: Darren Waller (high-end)
FLEX: RB Kenyan Drake, RB Peyton Barber (if Jacobs doesn’t play)
Bench: WR Bryan Edwards

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Daniel Jones has played better at times this season, but he has just two multi-TD games and one 300+ yard game through eight weeks of the season, and he continues to make mind-numbing mistakes that kill scoring chances for the Giants and fantasy owners alike. I would love to see him play just one game with his full complement of skill position players. I also wish OC Jason Garrett would include more scripted runs in the game plan. Jones is a better athlete than he’s given credit for, and letting him use his legs could spark the Giants offense and provide some fantasy boost for owners.

WR Kadarius Toney looks like the top target for now, working out of the slot and piling up targets (hopefully) with WR Sterling Shepard out and WR Kenny Golladay still a question mark. TE’s Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph both had touchdown catches against the Chiefs last week, but neither has been a consistent fantasy option to this point and shouldn’t be moving forward.

Vegas has been holding opposing QB’s to just 6.3 yards per attempt this season and a QB Rating under 90. They also have almost 20 sacks and do a good job of pressuring the pocket, which is bad news for Jones and an offensive line still working to put it all together.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: There’s an outside shot that Saquon Barkley (ankle) could make his return this week, but given his injury history and the Giants bye coming next week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants play it cautious and hold Barkley for the Week 11 contest against Tampa Bay. Fantasy value ticks up for everybody on the offense if he plays, but if not, Devontae Booker seems to be settling into his role after four weeks of carrying the load, averaging 4.0 yards last week and scoring twice in the last three games. He’s a low-end fantasy option against a Raiders defense that is allowing 4.6 per carry and has been burned by big plays in the run game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Daniel Jones (high-end)
RB2: Saquon Barkley (low-end, if he plays), Devontae Booker (low-end, if Barkley sits)
WR2: Kadarius Toney (low-end)
TE2: Evan Engram (low-end)
Bench: WR Sterling Shepard, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Darius Slayton, TE Kyle Rudolph

Prediction: Raiders 21, Giants 17 ^ Top

Falcons @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: NO -6.5
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan and the Falcons head to the Super Dome to take on the Saints in a divisional tilt between bitter rivals. The Falcons are looking to bounce back from an ugly loss to the Panthers in which Ryan threw for just 146 yards and a score, with two interceptions.

Prior to that game, Ryan did have back-to-back 300 yards performances against two of the worst defenses in the league in the Dolphins and Jets. But against a solid defense like the Panthers, Ryan was constantly under pressure and did not have his full complement of weapons, with Calvin Ridley leaving the team for mental health reasons.

Ridley will not play in this game on Sunday, and Ryan will once again be under constant pressure from a Saints defense that just tormented Tom Brady and the Bucs in Week 8.

With Ridley out, veteran Tajae Sharpe stepped into the starting role and had five catches for 58 yards. Russell Gage was thought to have been the wide receiver to step into a move voluminous role, but an ankle injury limited his play last week and burned more than a few fantasy managers.

Gage was a limited participant on Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday but did say he expects to be active on Sunday.

Kyle Pitts had his worst game of the season last week, with the Panther limiting the former first-round pick to two catches for 13 yards on six targets. Considering that Pitts had nearly 300 receiving yards combined in his previous two games, last week was more than a shock to fantasy managers.

Look for Pitts to get at least ten targets in this game, assuming that the subpar Atlanta offensive line can provide Ryan with enough time to get the ball out. The Saints are stout at all three levels of the defense and continue to dominate opposing QBs and running backs.

The Saints have given up the 5th-fewest points to opposing QBs and have forced more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed. Although Daniel Jones, Tom Brady, and Sam Darnold all threw for over 300 yards, the Saints shut down Aaron Rodgers at the Packers, Taylor Heinicke of the Football Team, and Geno Smith of the Seahawks.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints have given up 402 rushing yards on 133 carries this season, for an average of just 3.02 yards per attempt. No opposing running back has topped 73 rushing yards, and New Orleans has not given up a rushing touchdown since Week 5.

Considering the Falcons are not a good running team to start with, it is worth sitting Mike Davis in most games. In a matchup against the Saints at home, it is almost a no-brainer to leave him on your bench.

The one silver lining for the Saints run defense is they have been susceptible to running backs catching passes. For that reason, and the fact that he is really a WR with RB eligibility, starting Cordarrelle Patterson is not a bad play.

There are multiple injuries on the Saints that should have a positive effect on the fantasy production for Falcons skill position players. Starting safety Malcolm Jenkins missed Wednesday with a knee injury and is questionable for sunder.

The other major injury is the season-ending knee injury to Jameis Winston. We assume that Taysom Hill will get that start if he is able to clear the concussion protocol, but he may still be limited, and Trevor Siemian will be thrust into the starting lineup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (High-End)
RB3: Mike Davis (Low-End)
WR2: Cordarrelle Patterson (Low-End)
WR3: Tajae Sharpe (Low-End)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Jameis Winston experience is over in New Orleans, at least for this season, as Winston suffered a torn ACL and MCL against the Bucs last Sunday.

It is likely that Taysom Hill is going to take over as the starting quarterback if he is able to clear the concussion protocol. If not, it will be journeyman veteran Trevor Siemian.

When given a chance to start in four games last season with Drew Brees on the shelf, Hill was more than a viable fantasy starter, with three games of over 20 fantasy points and two games with multiple rushing touchdowns.

Hill completed over 72% of his passes last season but failed to top 300 yards in any game, and he did throw to interceptions. His value is much higher in four-point per passing touchdown leagues, as his rushing touchdowns are what make him so valuable.

The Saints will be without Michael Thomas this week, and for the remainder of the season, with Thomas announcing on social media he suffered another setback with his ankle. Thomas’ return would have made Hill far more attractive of a play, as the two of them had a strong connection last year.

Saints wide receivers rank dead last in combined catches and yards on the season, with 47/739/7. No Saint wide receiver has topped 100 yards in any game, and none of them have more than five receptions in any contest.

This is a run-first team that is now going to use a running quarterback. It is entirely possible that the Saints will have even fewer passing attempts going forward, especially in this game against an inferior opponent.

If forced to start a pass catcher on the Saints not named Alvin Kamara, you can go with Tre’Quan Smith or Marquez Callaway, but both are touchdown or bust options.

Editor's Note: Trevor Siemian has been named the starter. Expect Taysom Hill to be active as well.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: We do not think it is a coincidence that two of Alvin Kamara’s worst games last season came with Tayson Hill under center, as running quarterbacks who are red zone threats are not a good recipe for success for running backs.

Kamara did get a rising touchdown in two of the games against the Falcons last season with Hill at QB, but he managed just two total receptions for nine yards.

You are stating Kamara regardless, and the Falcons do rank 12th in catches allowed to RBs while allowing eight total touchdowns to RBs in seven games. Just don’t be surprised to see Hill poach a rushing touchdown and a sizable reduction in passes out of the backfield.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Siemian (Low-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (Mid-Range)
WR3: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
TE2: Adam Trautman (High-End)

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Atlanta 14 ^ Top

Bills @ Jaguars - (Swanson)
Line: BUF -14.5
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Allen is the next quarterback who gets the pleasure of taking on the dreadful Jacksonville Panthers, who a week ago made Geno Smith look like a stud. Allen enters the game as the No.1 QB in points per game, just ahead of Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson.

Allen continues to be a monster both as a passer and a runner, with 17 passing touchdowns and three scores on the ground. He is a must-start option and worthy of his elevated price on DFS.

Cole Beasley has quietly been a top 10 wide receiver over the past two weeks, with 17 catches for 198 yards and a score on a whopping 22 targets. Considering he had a total of four targets in Weeks 4 and 5, he has been an absolute monster as of late.

Beasley’s massive volume increase is likely due to the absence of tight end Dawson Knox, who will likely miss this game as well, and a decline in targets to Emmanuel Sanders. While we cannot be certain if Beasley will continue to get those targets or if some will go Sanders’ way, Beasley is worth a start again as a WR3 with WR2 or WR1 upside.

With two touchdowns in his last two games and 14 catches for 129 yards, Diggs is still the top man to roster in the WR corps. Sure, he is nowhere near on his torrid pace last season, but he is still a solid low-end WR1 and should be in all lineups.

The Jags are a terrible team with a terrible defense that is vulnerable across the board. They rank in the bottom 15 in points to QBs, WR, RB, and TE, making them a plus matchup for all Bills skill position players.

The main worry here is a sideways game script in which Buffalo jumps out to a big early lead. That could mean less work for Allen and the receiving options and more for Zack Moss and Devin Singletary on the ground.

There are no major injuries on the Jags defense that are of concern for this game. Backup linebacker Dakota Allen missed practice on Wednesday and is questionable. Starting nose tackle Davon Hamilton is dealing with a shoulder injury but was able to log a full practice yesterday.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: The running back tandem of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary have combined for just 120.7 points this season, making them the sixth-worst producing running back corps in the league.

Not surprising, as Josh Allen takes away with rushing production of his own, and the Bills don’t run the ball that much.

Of the two players, Moss is the one to roster and start this week as he continues to get a majority of the snaps. He played on 64% of the snaps compared to just 34% for Singletary, and he is often used late as the closer.

This game projects to be a lopsided blowout for the Bills, and Moss could be in line for some nice garbage time work.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (Elite)
RB2: Zack Moss (Low-End)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (Low-End)
WR3: Cole Beasley (High-End)
TE2: Tommy Sweeney (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Trevor Lawrence continues to learn just how challenging it is to play quarterback in the NFL, especially when you are the first overall pick on a terrible team.
Lawrence is completing fewer than 60% of his passes and is on pace to throw more interceptions than touchdowns for a Jacksonville team that just got blown out by Geno Smith and the Seahawks 31-7.

This should be another blowout loss for Lawrence and the Jags, as the Bills are a much more refined offense than the Seahawks, and the Buffalo defense is going to have a field day against Lawrence.

None of the skill position players on the Jags are great starts this week. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault could get a random touchdown late, and the game script will be such that the Jags are going to have to throw the ball a ton in the second half. That is not a glowing recommendation for either player, but in three WR leagues with a flex they could be worth a start.

A recent development with the Jags has been the emergence of Jamal Agnew in the passing game. The return specialist went from one target in his first three games to 26 over the last three, including a reaching touchdown on six catches last week at Seattle.

For those looking for a sleeper play and a low-cost DFS option, Agnew could have some value if he gets close to 10 targets again this week.

Another player to consider is tight end Dan Arnold, who logged 72% of the snaps last week and posted eight catches for 68 yards. Considering how terrible the tight end landscape is this season, that type of volume is hard to find.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: James Robinson suffered a heel injury last week and has not practiced yet in preparation for Week 9. He looks to be a long shot and could be limited should he suit up.

Veteran journeyman Carlos Hyde logged a limited practice with a calf injury on Wednesday. Of the two, Hyde has the best chance of playing and would provide the most value.

Regardless of who plays, the matchup against the Bills is not great, as Buffalo has given up the second-fewest points to opposing running backs. If you take out the three touchdowns given up to Derrick Henry, the Bills have not allowed another rushing touchdown on the season, and no opposing back has topped 45 yards.

If possible, I would look elsewhere than with the Jags ground game. Conversely, the Bills are the top defensive play of the week and could be a week-winning play.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Lawrence (Low-End)
RB3: Carlos Hyde (High-End)
WR3: Marvin Jones (Low-End)
WR4: Laviska Shenault (High-End)
WR4: Jamal Agnew (High-End)
TE1: Dan Arnold (Low-End)

Prediction: Buffalo 34, Jacksonville 7 ^ Top

Patriots @ Panthers - (Swanson)
Line: NE -3.5
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Through eight games of his rookie season, Mac Jones ranks 29th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks, with 1997 passing yards, to go along with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

Not at all spectacular for fantasy purposes, but he has been serviceable enough to make more than a few of the skill portion players on the team fantasy relevant. Also, he is the highest rated QB since Week 5, according to He may not be great as a fantasy option, but he is impressing more than a few people on the gridiron.

The wide receiving corps in New England has combined for just four total touchdowns on the year, and no Patriot wideout has a 100-yard game or multi-touchdown performance. Jones spreads the ball around between Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Myers, and N’Keal Harry.

Of those four, only Meyers and Agholor have fantasy value in deeper leagues.

Tight End Hunter Henry is tied for second at the position with four touchdowns on the year. His volume is not great, but he is on the field for anywhere between 65% and 75% of snaps and is the clear receiving threat at the position for Jones.

The Panthers rank 19th in points allowed to tight ends on the season, with 356 yards and three scores allowed in eight games. Not a plus matchup for Henry, but he is still a TE1 this week and a low-end starter.

No other team in the league has limited opposing running backs than Carolina, with just 13.4 points per game allowed over eight contests. Outside of Dalvin Cook and Zeke Elliott, all other running backs have been shut down by the Panthers, and no opposing back has reached the end zone via a reception.

Look for New England to win this game with their defense and short passes to their tight ends and wide receivers.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Damien Harris has been a solid fantasy option this season, with six rushing touchdowns and 517 yards on 118 carries. Although his lack of work in the passing game limits his upside in PPR formats, he has a score in five of eight games and three 100-yard performances.

Unfortunately, this matchup against the Panthers is not great on paper for Harris, as the Panthers’ young defense is the best in the league at limiting points to opposing running backs. Teams have found success throwing the ball and playing defense instead of running between the tackles.

This is not to say that Harris is a bad play this week, especially when you consider he had 23 carries last week against the Chargers. Just don’t be surprised to see him post a similar 3.5 yard per carry average and not reach 100 yards.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mac Jones (Low-End)
RB2: Damien Harris (Low-End)
WR3: Jakobi Meyers (Low-End)
WR4: Nelson Agholor (High-End)
TE1: Hunter Henry (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s not an easy feat for a quarterback with five rushing touchdowns in eight games to be ranked outside of the top 12 at the position. 30 points just from rushing touchdowns should provide enough of a floor for any QB to still crack the top 12.

If there were any QB in the league to pull off that feat, it would be Sam Darnold. After four games of 20 or more fantasy points to start the season, including 35 against the Cowboys in Week 4, Darnold has gone awol, with two passing touchdowns in his last four games and no performance of more than 17 points.

Darnold is clearly seeing ghosts again. And it is only going to get worse.

Bill Belichick has built a hall of fame resume designing defensive schemes to confuse even the best of quarterbacks. A QB lost in a mental slump like Darnold is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Of the wide receiver or pass-catching options, D.J. Moore is the only player worth starting. Robby Anderson should be off-limits and on your waiver wire.

If Christian McCaffrey comes back this week, it will be a boost for all of the receiving options, as he creates an extra level of difficulty for the defense. However, he is still limited in practice and appears to be a long shot.

Darnold also has been limited and could miss this game with head and shoulder injuries, opening the door for former AAF star P.J. Walker to get the start. Walker completed just three of 15 passes for 33 yards two weeks ago when he replaced the then benched Darnold.

The bottom line is there is not a ton to be excited about on this team right now, and the matchup against the Patriots does not bode well. The two best options in fantasy in this game are the New England Defense and possibly kicker Nick Folk.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: The Panthers designated Christian McCaffrey to return from IR this week, but it sounds like the star RB is still limited and could miss this game.

The Panthers desperately need a spark on their offense. With Sam Darnold a mess at quarterback and the possibility of P.J. Walker getting the start, Carolina could be in for a long day on Sunday.

Rookie Chuba Hubbard has been serviceable as CMC’s replacement, but he has averaged less than four yards per carry.

The Patriots typically boast a strong run defense that limits the fantasy production of opposing backs. While they have some stud players on defense, New England is not impossible to run on and currently rank as the 14th-ranked team in fantasy points allowed.

If CMC plays, you are playing him. If not, Hubbard is worth a start as a flex. The biggest worry for Hubbard is the game script, as this game could go sideways quickly, and Hubbard could see limited carries.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Darnold/P.J. Walker (Low-End)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (Low-End)
WR2: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
TE1: Tommy Tremble Low-End)

Prediction: New England 30, Carolina 14 ^ Top

Chargers at Eagles - (Ilchuk)
Line: LAC -1.5
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite struggling in back-to-back games against good defenses in the Ravens and Patriots, QB Justin Herbert is still one of the top fantasy plays at the position. Through seven games, he has thrown for at least 300 yards three times and posted four multi-TD games in seven tries. He has plenty of places to go with the ball, too. WR Mike Williams has become the big play threat in this offense (8 plays of 20+ yards and three of 40 or more), and fellow wideout Keenan Allen is Mr. Consistency with a team-high 69 targets and at least five catches in six of seven games. RB Austin Ekeler is fourth in the NFL amongst NFL backs with 33 receptions. TE Jared Cook is a reliable target, though aging and a bit limited.

The Eagles have a reputation for being tough defensively. The truth is they rack up stats against weaker opponents, but have struggled against better teams. They apply a lot of pressure on the QB in the passing game. Herbert will have to handle that. If he does, the Chargers are one of those better teams who can start playing downhill in a hurry.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Though he’s known more for his receiving skills out of the backfield, Austin Ekeler is currently averaging a very healthy 5.0 yards per carry and ranks in the top 20 in the NFL in rushing yards. He’s an RB1 this week against an Eagles team that is giving up 4.0 per carry and susceptible to the run in the red zone. He’s also the only real option for LA in the run game. Justin Jackson (quad) possesses a similar skill set to Ekeler, but is no more than a handcuff.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert (low-end)
RB1: Austin Ekeler (mid-range)
WR2: Mike Williams (high-end)
WR3: Keenan Allen (mid-range)
TE2: Jared Cook (low-end)
Bench: RB Justin Jackson

Passing Game Thoughts: Truth be told, Jalen Hurts’ production in the passing game has been all over the place. He only has two 300-yard games and four games of less than 100 yards (a season-low 103 against Detroit last week). On the other hand, he’s also turned in four multi-TD games. What has been consistent is the run game, with at least 40 rushing yards in six games and five rushing TD’s. He’ll need his legs this week.

Rookie DeVonta Smith is the No.1 option and leads the team by a large margin with 56 targets. TE Dallas Goedert is Hurts’ security blanket and a legitimate red zone threat. RB Kenneth Gainwell is another reliable receiver in the short passing game with 31 targets. He could see a bump with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott handling the running load and WR Jalen Reagor (ankle) potentially sidelined by injury.

The Chargers are strong defensively, particularly in the secondary. This group is among the best in the league in opposing QB passer rating and yards allowed per attempt. The problem is they don’t generate many big plays in terms of pressures or turnovers and that limits their fantasy upside.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Hurts is actually the leading rusher in Philly with 73 carries for 432 yards and 5 TD. He’s also averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry. With RB Miles Sanders sidelined by an ankle injury, the team signed veteran Jordan Howard, who promptly responded with 57 yards on 12 carries. It’s not hard to see him taking on the lead dog role, but Boston Scott is still sharing carries, and Kenneth Gainwell handles most of the receiving duties. That’s going to limit Howard’s ceiling, but he’s still an RB2 in my book this week, running against a Chargers defense that is giving up a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry on the ground.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (mid-range)
RB2: Jordan Howard (low-end)
RB3: Boston Scott (low-end), Kenneth Gainwell (low-end)
WR3: DeVonta Smith (low-end)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (high-end)
Bench: WR Quez Watkins, WR Jalen Reagor

Prediction: Chargers 23, Eagles 14 ^ Top

Cardinals @ 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -2.0
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: While most expect that quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle) will be on the field for Sunday’s game against the 49ers, fantasy owners will need to pay particularly close attention in the days leading up to the game, as Murray has still not practiced as of Thursday.

If he’s able to go, Murray is in for a tough matchup against a 49ers defense that has done a great job of containing opposing passing games as of late. They’ve held opposing QBs to fewer than 200 passing guards in four of their past six games, including each of their past two games against Carson Wentz and Justin Fields. While Wentz and Fields still got the job done from a fantasy standpoint due to contributions from their legs, the concern has to be that Murray simply doesn’t have that in his range of outcomes at the moment given that he’s dealing with an ankle injury. Despite being one of the league’s most productive runners at the quarterback position over the past few seasons, Murray has been quiet in that department here in 2021. In fact, he’s been held to fewer than 25 rushing yards in all but two contests, and both of those came when he wasn’t hobbled with a lower leg injury.

If Murray isn’t running, he has to do everything with his arm and while he’s been able to do it most weeks, this is not a great matchup to be going on the road to face, especially without his usual mobility. Of course Murray is probably a must-start in most formats given how much you paid for him and the likely replacements you have rostered, but understand that this is probably a low-upside week with a floor that’s also lower than most Murray games.

Along with Murray’s injury, the Cardinals are also dealing with injuries to multiple of their top wide receivers. A.J. Green hit the COVID-IR on Wednesday and is now unlikely to be able to suit up for Sunday’s contest. Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins is also dealing with a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of practice all week and also limited him to just 16 snaps in Week 8. While he’s a tough player who will almost certainly be out there for the game, there’s a real risk that his snaps are limited again, especially if the Cardinals are without Murray and end up deciding that they’re better off just not risking their star wide receiver’s health in a game they’re going to struggle in offensively anyway. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury reports as we head into this weekend’s matchups, because we might get more information regarding this injury as we get closer to game time.

With Green out and Hopkins potentially limited, there should be some additional opportunities for wide receivers Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore. Kirk has contributed five 10-plus PPR fantasy point games already this season but he’s yet to have a truly breakout game since the two-TD performance he had back in Week 1. Part of that is because he’s been competing with Hopkins and Green for targets, however, so look for him to see a significant upgrade in target share, particularly if Hopkins is out or noticeably limited.

Moore has been fairly limited in the passing game as well, but could be useful in deep PPR formats if the team is somehow without both Green and Hopkins. Assuming Hopkins is healthy, though, Moore should remain on fantasy benches until we see him utilized more often.

The addition of Zach Ertz in Arizona has been a pleasant surprise for those who invested in him as the tight end has now scored over total PPR 24 fantasy points over his past two contests since joining the Cardinals. He actually already played against the 49ers back in Week 2 when he was a member of the Eagles roster when he was held to just one catch for the day, but the Cardinals are utilizing Ertz a lot more often this season and that should give fantasy owners the confidence they need to ride with Ertz as a low-end TE1 in Week 9.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Chase Edmonds finally scored his first touchdown of the 2021 season this past week, but his performance was overshadowed by backup James Conner who scored both his seventh and eighth touchdown of the year. Edmonds is still slightly ahead of Conner on the season-long PPR fantasy rankings, but there’s no question that Conner has been suffocating Edmonds’ fantasy value by stealing away touchdowns. Edmonds does continue to out-snap and out-touch Conner pretty much every week, however those touches are not typically taking place near the goal line and that’s been a killer for Edmonds’ fantasy upside.

Week 9’s matchup against the 49ers is a tough one for running backs. The team has allowed just one 100-yard runner (Jonathan Taylor) on the year and they previously held the Conner/Edmonds duo to just 29 and 15 rushing yards respectively, while pretty much containing both of them in the passing game. Conner was able to save his fantasy day by getting into the end zone, but that Week 5 contest against San Francisco was Edmonds’ worst of 2021 and fantasy owners need to be careful in this matchup.

The running back position is completely devastated throughout the league so we’ll still call Edmonds a low-end PPR RB2 for this contest, but this could very well be a tough game for him again. Conner, of course, remains a complete touchdown-or-bust fantasy option and while he’s delivered in the end zone more often than not this season, there’s still plenty of potential for him to completely bust, especially if the Cardinals end up being without Kyler Murray and the offense ends up being less successful because of it.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray (low end)
RB2: Chase Edmonds (low end)
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins (low end)
Flex: James Conner, Christian Kirk
Bench: Rondale Moore

Passing Game Thoughts: Expected to make another start following a huge Week 8 performance on the road against the Bears, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues to hold off rookie Trey Lance in what has been one of the more frustrating fantasy situations throughout the league. Garoppolo has given us two absolute duds along with a pair of “just okay” fantasy days, until this past week when he not only threw for 322 yards, but also surprisingly delivered a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Garoppolo is one of the league’s least-mobile quarterbacks so we shouldn’t expect his rushing touchdowns to continue, but the 49ers passing the ball 30 or fewer times is a trend that we can pretty much bank on. That lack of passing ceiling makes it tough to really trust Garoppolo as a fantasy quarterback even in good matchups, but especially in tough ones like what he’ll face in Week 9 against the Cardinals. Arizona has held opposing quarterbacks to 280 or fewer passing yards in every game this season, including three of their past four opponents to under 200 yards through the air (including Trey Lance), and they’ve only allowed one quarterback to throw for more than two touchdowns against them so far this season.

The one player in this passing game who continues to be a must-start option is wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Samuel has been a monster this season and has scored at 16 or more PPR fantasy points in all but one game this season. It’s worth noting that he was held to a season-fewest three catches against Arizona in Week 5, but he still got into the end zone (albeit as a runner) and he was targeted nine times. He hasn’t been targeted fewer than eight times in any game, so the floor should continue to be there for him even if his ceiling is a bit limited in some of these more difficult matchups.

Fellow wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has been seeing his playing time increase recently, but he remains a must-bench for the time being. He hasn’t reached even 50 yards in any game this season and there’s just no reason to risk playing him against a defense as good as Arizona’s.

One additional thing to keep an eye on for this matchup is the status of tight end George Kittle. Kittle has missed the 49ers’ past three games and returned to practice on Thursday. Reports are that he was running routes and looked to be back to his usual self, which should allow him to get back on the field on Sunday. Kittle is obviously an elite pass catching weapon at the tight end position and instantly becomes a must-start at a depleted position that is devoid of much upside beyond the top couple of players.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: The 49ers’ backfield has long been a confusing and frustrating one for fantasy owners, but rookie Elijah Mitchell appears to have a stranglehold on the backfield - at least for now. Mitchell missed a pair of games back in Weeks 3 and 4, but has otherwise dominated the touches in the 49ers’ backfield. He’s carried the ball at least 17 times in all but one game that he’s been healthy - a number that very few other backs can say they’ve achieved this season.

Of course, the one game that he didn’t carry the ball as much in was back in Week 5 against the very same Cardinals defense he’ll be facing here in Week 9. Mitchell was held to just nine carries for 43 yards in that contest. He hasn’t proven to be much of a contributor in the passing game this season which could potentially limit his upside in this game, especially if the 49ers do end up falling behind on the scoreboard.

There’s also a possibility, however, that Mitchell sees even a bigger workload in the scenario that Kyler Murray misses the game and the 49ers actually end up getting up early in the game and leaning even more heavily on their running game than they normally do. This could allow a potential “boom” week from Mitchell who has been a quality RB2 in most games but hasn’t yet delivered a truly week-winning performance for fantasy owners.

Value Meter:
RB2: Elijah Mitchell
WR1: Deebo Samuel
TE1: George Kittle
Bench: Jimmy Garoppolo, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu

Prediction: 49ers 24, Cardinals 23 ^ Top

Packers at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -7.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The COVID-IR hit the Packers again this week as quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss at least Week 9’s contest after testing positive. This comes a week after the team was without both wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. Now with both receivers expected back on the field, they’ll be in an even worse situation in Week 9, having to turn to former first round pick and unproven quarterback Jordan Love to make his first NFL start in one of the league’s loudest road environments.

Love has been praised internally but we’ve never seen him in serious action in the NFL, so there remains a deep concern, from a fantasy standpoint, that he just isn’t good enough. The Chiefs have given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including a 20-point day to Daniel Jones this past week. He’s obviously a huge risk and likely won’t be asked to do a ton if the game stays close, but there’s a real chance that the Chiefs run away with this one and the Packers are forced to throw a lot more than they’re comfortable with. That game script could lead to some decent fantasy production from Love who should be looked at as a potential low-end QB2 this week.

Even with Love behind center, Adams remains a must-start, assuming he’s active, against one of the league’s worst pass defenses. The Chiefs have already given up four 100-yard days to opposing outside wide receivers this year and that doesn’t even include the two touchdown day that they gave up to Emmanuel Sanders back in Week 5.

Lazard and the remaining Packers receivers are unquestionably risky without Rodgers at QB, especially now that tight end Robert Tonyan has been placed on IR. Marcedes Lewis becomes the de facto TE1 in Green Bay and could contribute a touchdown here or there for the remainder of the season, but he’s not worth a fantasy start if Rodgers isn’t out there.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: We have to assume that the Packers will be leaning heavily on their running backs this week given the worrisome situation at quarterback. Aaron Jones and even AJ Dillon should be looked at as startable fantasy assets this week, particularly if you believe that the Packers can keep this game close on the scoreboard. Of course, the risk becomes that the Packers fall behind multiple scores and end up passing, which would almost certainly ruin Dillon’s fantasy value. Jones, of course, has proven to be a valuable asset in the passing game throughout his career and could actually thrive in a pass-heavy environment.

The Chiefs have given up at least one 10-plus-point PPR fantasy game to a running back on every roster they’ve faced - including 15 and 24 point games to both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt back in Week 1 - so there’s plenty of potential for fantasy production here. Go ahead and trust Jones as an RB1 and feel free to flex Dillon, especially in non-PPR formats.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jordan Love (low end)
RB1: Aaron Jones
WR1: Davante Adams
Flex: AJ Dillon
Bench: Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Amari Rodgers, Marcedes Lewis

Passing Game Thoughts: With three sub-20 point fantasy days over his past four contests, one of the big talks of the fantasy world this past week has been, “what’s wrong with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes?”

While this is a fair question, it’s also worth noting that the Chiefs quarterback is still firmly a top-six fantasy quarterback on the season. Even the greats go through some tough stretches and while there’s no guarantee that things change quickly, it seems pretty safe to assume that the Chiefs will eventually pull themselves out of this slump. The question is - will it happen this week against the Packers?

For starters, it’s good for the Chiefs that this game is taking place in Kansas City. Mahomes has scored at least 14 fantasy points in every Chiefs home game over the past two seasons and he’s consistently an elite producer at home. Perhaps more importantly, though, he’ll face a Packers defense that is one of the league’s worst in pressure rate. The Chiefs have struggled to protect Mahomes in recent weeks, so this should be a nice opportunity for them to keep their quarterback safe and allow him to make the trademark downfield throws that’ve made him one of the league’s best young stars.

The biggest concern for Mahomes owners shouldn’t be that he’s struggled in recent weeks, but rather that it’s very possible that the Chiefs could run away with this game early and end up leaning much more heavily on their running game than they typically do. Kansas City are Vegas favorites by about a touchdown right now, which is one of the biggest lines of the week.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has remained an elite producer even through the offense’s recent struggles and has to be looked at as one of the top wide receivers on the board this week. The Packers are again without top cornerback Jaire Alexander and they’re not well equipped to deal with a super-stud like Hill.

Travis Kelce’s typical positional advantage over other tight ends has been muted a bit this season. He’s still the TE1 in fantasy which makes him an obvious must-start in literally any matchup, but he hasn’t reached 20 PPR fantasy points in a game since back in Week 2. Still, he’s seen an average of nearly 10 targets per game in the six games he’s played since Week 2, so the peripheral numbers are there. We just need him and Kelce to connect again, particularly in the end zone, and fantasy owners will forget all about the “just so-so” games that he’s been providing as of late.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: With Clyde Edwards-Helaire expected to miss another game, the Chiefs are expected to turn to veteran Darrel Williams to be their lead back once again. Williams has played over 50 percent of the team’s snaps in every contest since Edwards-Helaire’s injury.

Derrick Gore surprisingly made an appearance in this past week’s win over the Giants, carrying the ball 11 times to Williams’ 13, but it was Williams who was still trusted on the field on most of the important snaps, especially down the stretch in securing the win. Gore is someone who should be looked at in deep dynasty leagues, but Williams is really the only back in this offense who we should be interested in for the time being, considering he out-snapped Gore by a rate of 52 to 16 in Week 8.

Williams isn’t a stud player by any means and he’s been held to fewer than 10 fantasy points in two of his past four games, but he’s also delivered two solid fantasy performances in the three starts he’s made, including this past week when he contributed a season high six receptions for 61 yards in the passing game to go along with his 13 carries for 49 yards. It’s also possible that the Chiefs pull ahead on the scoreboard in this game and end up relying on the running game more often than usual, which would obviously be a boost to Williams’ fantasy value.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Darrel Williams
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: Derrick Gore, Jerick McKinnon, Mecole Hardman, Josh Gordon, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle

Prediction: Chiefs 33, Packers 20 ^ Top

Titans at Rams - (Caron)
Line: LAR -7.5
Total: 53.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Titans lost Derrick Henry to injury and despite claims from the coaching staff that the offense won’t change significantly, it’s hard to envision a world where Tennessee doesn’t become significantly more pass-heavy than they’ve been so far this season.

We don’t yet know the status of wide receiver Julio Jones, but missing him this past week didn’t stop quarterback Ryan Tannehill from throwing for 265 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Colts - and that was with Henry still playing. With Henry inactive and Jones potentially back this week, look for Tannehill to push closer to 40 attempts vs the 30 attempts he had been providing in recent weeks.

The question now becomes just how much Henry’s presence on the field has been affecting the passing game. We have to assume that opposing defenses have been focused much more heavily on the running game than they will be going forward. Of course, analytical data also shows us that play action passing can still work even when a team is not effective running the ball, but Henry is definitely an outlier in many ways and this could certainly be one where he’s affecting defenses much more than his backups will be. Still, Tannehill’s perceived uptick in pass attempts should at least help to maintain his value and could lead to even more production overall. The upside for Tannehill is actually higher without Henry than it was with him, just given the expected volume alone.

Whether or not it helps Tannehill individually remains to be seen, but it should - theoretically - lead to more targets for the pass catchers and the primary recipient of those targets should continue to be A.J. Brown. Brown has now been targeted 29 times over his past three games, catching 25 of those passes for an impressive 379 yards and two scores. He and Tannehill have been connecting at an incredible rate and now we’re looking at Brown potentially seeing one of the league’s highest target rates. He got 10 targets for the first time this season in Week 8 and this is a WR1 to get excited about once again.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: With Henry out, the Titans are now expected to turn to a committee backfield of Jeremy McNichols and the newly acquired D’Onta Foreman and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson.

McNichols has been playing a role as the Titans’ primary passing down back this season whereas Foreman and Peterson have not yet played a snap for a team this season and have not had time to learn the Tennessee playbook. Running backs are often able to pick up offenses quickly and still get significant playing time right away so we shouldn’t allow this to be the only reason that McNichols is the perceived top back here in Week 9, but it’s definitely something to consider that he’s the only one who has experience in the offense.

More importantly, McNichols possesses the pass catching ability that neither Peterson nor Foreman have shown throughout their careers. He has five games of three or more receptions already this season and that was in minimal time spelling Henry. Assuming that Peterson and McNichols essentially split the rushing work with Foreman picking up the scraps, McNichols is really the only back who fantasy owners should have much excitement about this week, and even that should only be as a PPR Flex.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Tannehill (high end)
WR1: A.J. Brown
WR3: Julio Jones
Flex: Jeremy McNichols (PPR only)
Bench: Adrian Peterson, D’Onta Foreman, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Anthony Firkser

Passing Game Thoughts: The stud season for Matthew Stafford continued this past week as the Los Angeles quarterback threw for his fifth 300-yard game of the season, as well as his fifth game with three or more touchdown passes. It came alongside another absolutely monster game from both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, along with a solid performance from Van Jefferson.

Things only get better for this awesome offense in Week 9 as they face a Tennessee defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. Stafford, Kupp and even Woods are must-starts in this great matchup, but what becomes interesting is that Jefferson could even have some potential to produce in this one. Jefferson has been giving up a lot of snaps to DeSean Jackson this season, but now that Jackson has been released, it would seem likely that Jefferson will continue to play almost every snap in this offense. He’ll still be behind Kupp and Woods but he’s now seen at least four targets in six straight games. There’s a real chance that he has value, especially in plus-matchups like this one.

Tight end Tyler Higbee hasn’t panned out as a top tight end despite the fact that he’s playing a ton of snaps in a good offense. Part of that would seemingly be because Jefferson has stepped up, but the reality is that Higbee just isn’t seeing a consistent enough target share to be anything more than a low-end TE1. The position is garbage and banged up as a whole so you might not have a better option, but there’s not much to be excited about here.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: If someone told you that the Rams would be without Cam Akers and that Matthew Stafford would be an elite fantasy quarterback through the first half of the season, it’d be hard to believe that the Rams would also have an RB1 for fantasy. But that’s exactly where we are, as Darrell Henderson is currently sitting as a top-12 fantasy RB in PPR formats following his two touchdown performance in Week 8. The Rams running back has delivered at least 15 in all but one game he’s played this season, making him not only a high upside option but also a surprisingly high floor running back.

The Rams are a touchdown favorite over the Titans which could mean another heavy rushing day for Henderson, so look for him to deliver another quality fantasy RB1 day here in Week 9.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford
RB1: Darrell Henderson
WR1: Cooper Kupp (high end)
WR2: Robert Woods (low end)
WR3: Van Jefferson
TE1: Tyler Higbee (low end)
Bench: Sony Michel

Prediction: Rams 31, Titans 23 ^ Top

Bears @ Steelers - (Green)
Line: PIT -6.5
Total: 39.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With a young quarterback the No. 1 thing you want to see is progress, and last Sunday afternoon felt like a much-needed step in a positive direction for Justin Fields, who was coming off the Bucs blowout where he turned the ball over five times amid constant pressure. Facing the 49ers, Fields helped guide the Bears to points on five of their first six drives, highlighted by an incredible 22-yard TD run on a fourth down that looked like it would end with a sack. He still had his struggles, tossing his seventh INT and fumbling twice more (though neither was lost), but he finished with 103 yards on 10 carries, which is encouraging.

It was still a mostly safe passing game with Fields averaging 6.5 yards per attempt as he went 19-for-27 with 175 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Darnell Mooney (6-64-0) was once again the rookie’s favored choice; in fact, Mooney (9) and Cole Kmet (6) were the target on more than half of Fields’ throws. That left Allen Robinson (3-21-0) to contend for scraps, further rendering the one-time fantasy WR1 not just unplayable, but not even worth rostering in many formats. Mooney, meanwhile, has moved up to flex status and is the only reasonably safe option in Chicago’s passing game.

The Steelers enter Week 9 ranked 13th against the pass, allowing 239.7 yards per game alongside an 11-to-2 opponent TD:INT ratio -- only the Jets have fewer INTs. Pittsburgh’s 19 sacks are tied for 10th, which is below what we’ve come to expect. They faced a similar, ground-focused Browns offense last Sunday and held them to 306 total yards and 10 points in a divisional road win. This is another tough matchup for Chicago.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: With David Montgomery (knee) already out, Damien Williams (knee) departed early in Week 8, leaving Khalil Herbert as the last man standing. He’s served as the bell cow the past three games, averaging 104 combined yards and scoring once. Pittsburgh’s run defense (106.0 YPG; 12th) hasn’t been as stout as in recent years, but they held up alright against a top-tier back in Nick Chubb (16-61-0) last Sunday. View Herbert as a solid RB2.

Value Meter:
RB2: Khalil Herbert
Flex: Darnell Mooney
Bench: Justin Fields, David Montgomery (IR), Damien Williams (inj-knee), Allen Robinson

Passing Game Thoughts: By recent Steelers standards, the passing game had some juice last weekend with Ben Roethlisberger connecting on 22 of 34 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown. The 7.8 yards per attempt were his second-highest mark this season. TDs continue to elude Big Ben, however, as he has now thrown for exactly one score in six of seven games on the year. He’s not getting sacked (good), and he’s avoiding turnovers (also good), but until his red-zone work ticks up he should remain on your bench.

The same cannot be said for his top targets. With JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) lost for the year, Pat Freiermuth (4-44-1) has emerged as a fringe TE1 play; he has 11 catches on 14 targets in two games since the Smith-Schuster injury. That loss also solidified Diontae Johnson (6-98-0) as the No. 1 receiver in the Steel City with the third-year pro logging 26 targets in the same stretch. Chase Claypool (4-45-0) has seen roughly the same usage with less production, but for now we’ll call it anomaly.

After a pretty good start, Chicago’s defense has had a couple of tough weeks in a row, getting shredded by Tom Brady in what amounted to basically a half of action in Week 7 and then giving up over 300 yards to Brady’s former understudy Jimmy Garoppolo last Sunday. A foot injury to Khalil Mack could be part of the problem, but it doesn’t explain away all their struggles. That gives Johnson, Claypool and Freiermuth a little added appeal for fantasy owners in this one.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Najee Harris (26-91-1) continues to deliver the goods for the Steelers, topping 100 total yards in four of the last five games. A quick glance around the NFL at the status of other high-usage backs paints a pretty bleak picture long term, so fantasy owners should enjoy it while it lasts. That enjoyment should continue into Week 9 against a Bears defense that is one of five to have allowed at least 1,000 yards running the football this season; that includes Elijah Mitchell’s 137-yard effort last Sunday. Play Harris as a high-end No. 1 fantasy back.

Value Meter:
RB1: Najee Harris
WR1/WR2: Diontae Johnson
WR3: Chase Claypool
TE1: Pat Freiermuth
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger

Prediction: Steelers 26, Bears 15 ^ Top