Week 9 FanDuel Top Shelf & Bargain Bin Plays

Week 5 QB Rankings

We’re past the halfway point in the 2015 Fantasy Football season and boy has it been a crazy ride! In Week 8 Drew Brees exploded for 511 yards passing and tied an NFL-record with seven touchdown passes. I’d like to refer to it as the “Dome effect” with the Saints playing at home in the Superdome versus the Giants. This was just the 18th time an NFL quarterback has passed for 500 yards in a game. It was the second time in three weeks with Philip Rivers passing for 503 yards in Week 6 versus the Packers. It was also Drew Brees second career 500-yard passing game and only Ben Roethlisberger has accomplished this feat twice. Eli Manning was overshadowed in this shootout passing for 350 yards and six touchdowns. Brees and Manning combined to set an NFL record with a combined 13 touchdown passes in the game. This game will go down in the history books and I hope that you were lucky enough to own or play some of the players involved in this game.

Well I wish I only had good news but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Week 8 claimed a laundry list of key players for the season. I guess when it rains it pours and that’s no joke! The most noteworthy injury was to superstar Le’Veon Bell who went down with a torn MCL injury. If that wasn’t bad enough one of my favorite players Matt Forte also went down with an MCL injury. The bad news continued to spread like wildfire with reports on Tuesday that Keenan Allen is out for the season with a serious kidney injury. Last but not least Steve Smith‘s farewell tour was put on hold after he tore his Achilles. This could be a career ending injury but if anyone can make a miraculous return from this type of injury it’s Smith.  All we can do is say a prayer for all these players and hope for the best. This week Tom Brady leads my list of Week 9 FanDuel Top Shelf and Bargain Bin Play. Brady is in full F-you mode and is going to get the last laugh if it kills him.

Top Shelf Picks

Quarterback

Tom Brady- New England Patriots $9500

vs Washington Redskins

Tom Brady just keeps on keeping on consistently putting up top five numbers every week at the quarterback position. He’s the top scoring fantasy quarterback this year and is showing no signs of slowing down. Brady is averaging 26.8 fantasy points a week on FanDuel which leads all quarterbacks. Andy Dalton is the next closest scorer with an average of 21.6 points a week. Brady has been very consistent tossing three or more touchdown passes in four out of his seven starts this season. He’s as matchup proof as they come and this week faces off with the Washington Redskins at home in Foxborough.

Digging deeper on Football Outsiders, I found that the Redskins have a defensive DVOA rating of 5.1%, which ranks 19th overall out of 32 NFL teams. Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) can be explained further here. In a nutshell team efficiency ratings are measured by Defense DVOA ratings and are adjusted based on strength of opponent, as well as taking into consideration all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. Positive numbers represent more points allowed so a Defense is better when it is NEGATIVE. In comparison the number one ranked defense DVOA is Denver with a score of -28.4%. Brady should have no problems putting up another 30 point week making him the top option if you’re paying up at quarterback.

Philip Rivers- San Diego Chargers $8600

vs Chicago Bears (MNF)

Philip Rivers was my poster boy last week and he didn’t let me down throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers leads the NFL in passing yards (2,753), passing attempts (348), completions (243), completion percentage (69.8%) *minimum 200 attempts*, and is tied with Brady with 344 passing yards per game. The numbers speak for them self and put Rivers into MVP consideration regardless of the Chargers overall record. If you’re counting at home, that’s five games in a row with at least 300 yards passing, posting a 13:3 TD:INT ratio over that span. Rivers spread the ball around connecting with 10 different receivers versus the Ravens. Rivers heads home to sunny San Diego to host the reeling Chicago Bears who will be minus their best player Matt Forte. While Rivers will be without the services of Keenan Allen (IR), I’m expecting Malcolm Floyd, Stevie Johnson, Ladarius Green, and Antonio Gates to pick up the slack. The Bears secondary has allowed the fourth-most scores through the air (16) while only picking off four passes on the season. Rivers is a lock to post his sixth consecutive 300-yard passing game at the expense of the Chicago Bears.

Bargain Bin Plays

Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders $7000

at Pittsburgh Steelers

If you played Derek Carr last week in your DFS lineups you most likely banked on his amazing four touchdown performance versus a stout Jets defense. While they say not to chase points in DFS, I believe Carr has proved that he’s legit and is a dependable option moving forward. Carr has 15 touchdown passes this season and only three interceptions. Over his last two starts Carr has amassed 622 passing yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Carr has shown a lot of maturity in his second year as a starting quarterback and looks very comfortable under center. I think the major difference this year has been the coaching change with Jack Del Rio taking over the reins, bringing his no-nonsense attitude as a former player. Carr has also benefited from the change in player personnel with the additions of veteran Michael Crabtree and rookie star Amari Cooper. He now has some viable targets capable of stretching the field and making big plays. Carr is locked and loaded as a QB1 and is a bargain at his current FanDuel salary of $7000. I like him more this week than higher priced options like Blake Bortles, Sam Bradford, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Matt Ryan.

Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers $6700

vs New York Giants

Jameis Winston is still a rookie but he’s starting to make strides and is figuring out Lovie Smith’s offense. I recommended Winston last week and he came through with 171 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and one rushing score. While these numbers may seem mediocre, he managed these stats despite the Bucs playing without Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Winston is proving now why he was worthy of the first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Winston has rebounded nicely after his four interception performance in Week 4 versus the Carolina Panthers. In his three starts since then he’s thrown for 683 yards, four passing touchdowns, and most impressive, zero interceptions. Winston is starting to make better decisions and is improving at reading the defense and making his progressions. Winston’s breakout game is on the horizon and I think the stage is set for it to happen this week. In Week 9 Winston faces a Giant’s secondary that was just torched last week by Drew Brees for an NFL-record seven TD passes! The Giants secondary is a dumpster fire and currently own the 32nd-ranked passing defense in the league. Don’t be scared to fire up Winston this week in your FanDuel lineups. I think he’s especially a great GPP play but can be cash worthy also.

Top Shelf Picks

Running Back

Todd Gurley- St. Louis Rams $9000

at Minnesota Vikings

Todd Gurley is taking the NFL by storm and quickly becoming one of the most explosive running backs we’re witnessed in a long time……since dare I say Barry Sanders. You could easily make the argument that he’s the best back in the NFL with Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, and Le’Veon Bell all on IR. In four starts this year Gurley has amassed 566 yards and three touchdowns on 88 carries. Gurley set a post-merger record for rushing yards by a player in his first four games as a starter. He’s currently fifth in the league in rushing yards and is second with seven carries of at least 20 yards or longer. Gurley is fourth in the NFL with 3.13 yards after contact and 11th in the league with 18 missed tackles forced. The numbers tell the story and back up the notion that Gurley is the best back in the NFL. I’d be doing my readers a disservice if I didn’t recommend Gurley as my Top Shelf running back play. His ownership level is sure to spike but regardless he’s a must-play in your FanDuel GPP and cash lineups.

Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons $8900

at San Francisco 49ers

Devonta Freeman may have something to say about my Gurley claim but he’s cooled off considerably the past couple weeks. After scoring 10 touchdowns in a five-game stretch, he’s been held out of the end zone in consecutive starts. No one in their right mind expected him to continue his torrid pace and we knew regression had to come at some point. However, having said that, the volume is still there with him averaging 27 touches in his past two games. I’m expecting him to reach pay dirt this week against a 49ers defense that has allowed the sixth-most rushing yards (990) in the NFL. Ironically, only Freeman’s team, the Falcons and Lions have allowed more rushing touchdowns. In DFS we might start seeing more people fade Freeman for Gurley since they are so close in salary. Honestly this is a week that I’d be fine with starting Freeman or Gurley and a lower-priced bargain back since there are so many to choose from. Because of this strategy I’ve decided to highlight more Bargain Bin Plays this week at the running back position.

Bargain Bin Plays

DeAngelo Williams- Pittsburgh Steelers $6500

vs Oakland Raiders

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a big division loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and an even bigger loss of superstar Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers are better equipped than most teams to handle a crushing blow like this since they have a fresh DeAngelo Williams waiting in the wings. Williams proved in the first two weeks of the season that he can be counted on to be their featured workhorse running back when the need arises. Williams had 41 carries for 204 yards, two touchdowns, and added five receptions for 20 yards. Believe it or not he was the top scoring fantasy running back the first two weeks of the season. He looked sharp and very quick while filling in adequately for Le’Veon Bell during his suspension. Williams has fresh legs with only 63 carries this season and is being inserted into the starting lineup of one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NFL. With a healthy Big Ben back under center, Williams will be heavily involved in the running and passing game moving forward. While this week’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders are trending upward, they’ve yet to play a team with as many offensive weapons as the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders will travel cross county to take on a hungry Steelers team at Heinz Field. DeAngelo Williams makes for an excellent DFS play this week given his new role and current dirt cheap salary FanDuel salary of $6500.

Ronnie Hillman/C.J. Anderson- Denver Broncos $6400/$6000

at Indianapolis Colts

We’ve waited all season to gain some type of clarity in the Denver backfield situation. Well guess what, nothing has changed and we’re still left scratching our heads! Last week Ronnie Hillman was anointed the new starting back in Denver. He responded well by rushing for 60 yards on 19 carries while scoring two touchdowns. Hillman has been the best running back in Denver rushing for 383 yards on 85 carries (4.5 AVG) with four touchdowns. The hand-writing has been on the wall the past couple weeks with 39 carries for Hillman in that time span, compared to only 22 carries for C.J. Anderson. It’s obvious that Gary Kubiak trusts Hillman more but C.J. Anderson is the better pass-catching option. If I had to start one I’d prefer Hillman due to his usage and starting role. This week the Broncos travel to Indy to face a Colts team that has allowed the third-most rushing yards (999) in the NFL to go with nine scores on the ground. This is an ideal week to go cheap at RB with so many viable options available. You can use the money you save to beef up the rest of your skill positions.

While I like Hillman a lot this week the matchup alone versus the Colts makes C.J. Anderson a very interesting GPP play. Anderson is coming off his best game of the season with 14 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown. He looked a lot like the 2014 version of himself running hard while breaking off a 28-yard touchdown run. The Broncos would be smart to keep feeding the rock to Anderson to see if he can build on last week’s performance. Depending on the game-script and how that lines up we could see a lot of Anderson if the Broncos get off to an early lead Sunday versus the Colts. Plus the Colts will have little time to prepare for the Broncos having played in Carolina on Monday Night Football. This game has the makings of a blowout which is why I think both Hillman and Anderson are viable options at running back.

Jeremy Langford- Chicago Bears $6100

at San Diego Chargers (MNF)

Le’Veon Bell wasn’t the only devastating injury in Week 8. Matt Forte left last week’s game early versus the Vikings. He was diagnosed with an MCL injury and is looking at a multi-week absence. Next man up in Chicago is rookie Jeremy Langford. Langford was a monster in college at Michigan State and set a school record with 40 rushing touchdowns over his final two seasons. He performed well at the NFL Combine and recorded the fastest Forty-yard dash running a blazing 4.42. Langford won’t wow you in any area but does everything well. He has good vision and the speed to bust a big one in the open field. Langford has only averaged three yards per carry in limited action but stepped up after Forte left the game. He had 12 carries for 46 yards in Week 8 and has shown the trust of the Bears coaching staff by handling goal-line work earlier this season. I’m optimistic that Langford can be inserted right into the Bears starting lineup and do a lot of the same things Forte did, just not on his level obviously. It’s a risky play throwing a rookie into the fire but it’s a plus matchup. Week 9 the Bears travel to San Diego to face a Chargers team that has allowed over 100 rushing yards in six straight games before Week 8. I really like Jeremy Langford as a sneaky, contrarian GPP play this week.

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Top Shelf Picks

Wide Receiver

Odell Beckham Jr.- New York Giants $9000

at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Eli-OBJ connection is heating up and hopefully last week was the start of a nice run for last year’s rookie fantasy darling. OBJ had a monster videogame-like performance in the Big Easy catching eight passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Beckham gets another great matchup in Week 9 versus a Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary that has allowed 17 touchdowns through the air. Only the Giants and Saints have allowed as many scores to opposing receivers. I think this game could turn into a shootout meaning Eli will be slinging the pigskin another 40-50 times. This should lead to plenty of targets for OBJ and the possibility of another performance similar to last weeks could be in play. I was waiting for a sign that Odell was finally over his hamstring injury before playing him in DFS. It’s obvious after last week OBJ is a Top Shelf play moving forward. If you’re paying up this week at wide receiver, OBJ is the guy you want to play in cash and GPP games.

Antonio Brown- Pittsburgh Steelers $8700

vs Oakland Raiders

Antonio Brown was as thrilled as his fantasy owners to get Big Ben back under center. Having said that it definitely didn’t turn out the way Brown and his owners expected in Week 8 versus the Bengals. Big Ben had some rust on his steel armory managing only one touchdown pass while displaying accuracy issues with three interceptions. Last week on the FakePigskin Angle of Pursuit podcast I cautioned owners and DFS players to take the wait and see approach with Big Ben. It’s obvious that Brown’s value is tied to Ben who should be one week closer to one-hundred percent.

This is a must-win game for the Steelers so I’m banking on Ben Roethlisberger to bring his A-game this week and force-feed Brown the football. Ben targeted Brown 11 times last week which was a good sign however his inaccuracy was to blame for his sub par performance. The Raiders have allowed the seventh-most passing yards and only the Giants have allowed more net passing yards per game. It’s a great matchup for Brown and one that he should take advantage of in what could turn into a shootout.

Demaryius Thomas- Denver Broncos $8400

at Indianapolis Colts

Demaryius Thomas is finally heating up and it’s about time. Last week versus the Packers on SNF Thomas caught eight of his 11 targets for a season-high 168 yards. It was arguably the best performance all season from Manning and Thomas. DT has historically been a slow starter out of the gate so I’m not concerned moving forward. The targets have been there for Thomas with 86 on the season. Only DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Keenan Allen have more. In the past two weeks alone, Thomas has 28 targets which is a good sign that Manning is looking his way often.

The main issue this year has been that Thomas has been plagued by drops and has only scored one touchdown. The touchdowns will come and Manning seems to be getting more familiar with Gary Kubiak’s new offense which will benefit DT. This week the Broncos travel to Indy to face a Colts defense that has allowed the fifth-most receiving yards (2,306) and 14 scores through the air. I’m expecting Manning to come out guns blazing versus his former team while locking onto Thomas as his primary red zone target.

Bargain Bin Plays

Brandin Cooks- New Orleans Saints $7100

vs Tennessee Titans

Brandin Cooks has been a very frustrating player to own in season-long leagues and also very hard to trust in DFS lineups. Similar to Demaryius Thomas, Cooks is heating up and trending upward. Heading into last week’s game Cooks only had one touchdown. Against a weak Giants secondary Cooks enjoyed his first career game with multiple touchdown catches, scoring twice. Drew Brees is starting to make some accurate deep throws which is a sign that his shoulder is feeling better. Over the past two weeks Cooks has 12 receptions on 21 targets for 169 yards and two touchdowns. I’m expecting Cooks to build off last week’s positive momentum and remain Bree’s most trusted target moving forward. The Titans have been decent defending the pass but have still allowed 12 receiving touchdowns on the season. I like Cooks more this week than higher-priced options like Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Stefon Diggs.

Eric Decker- New York Jets $6300

vs Jacksonville Jaguars

Eric Decker is quietly putting up one of his best seasons since busting out for a career-high 13 touchdowns back in 2012 with Denver. Decker seems to always be in the shadow of Brandon Marshall but in terms of production he’s been one of the AFC’s most reliable receivers. Decker has caught 30 of 45 targets for 393 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also scored in five of the six games he’s started and has a good connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith. Speaking of Geno Smith it looks like he’s going to be the starter moving forward due to Fitz’s thumb injury. If you remember Geno Smith had a career game last year in Week 17 versus the Miami Dolphins, throwing for 358 yards and three touchdowns. In that game Eric Decker was his go-to receiver catching 10 of 11 targets for a career-high 221 yards and a touchdown. I’m only bringing this up because I believe the switch to Geno benefits Decker more than Marshall since they have a longer track record and very good chemistry. I’m recommending Decker with the caveat that Smith plays so be sure to check Sunday morning for injury updates. Abort Decker mission if Fitz and Smith are both out and the rookie Bryce Petty is starting.

Top Shelf Pick

Tight End

Gary Barnidge- Cleveland Browns $6600

at Cincinnati Bengals (TNF)

So what does a player have to do to get some respect? I mean Gary “Gronkidge” as he has been nicknamed is living up to his lofty comparisons to the real Gronk. Since Week 3, he has 36 receptions for 512 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to that, he had 48 catches for 658 yards and three touchdowns in 94 games. That’s right, he’s 30 years old and was drafted in 2008 by the Panthers, and is having a breakout year in Cleveland. He has as many touchdowns as Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins (tied for 4th most), and has more receiving yards than Amari Cooper, John Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Travis Kelce (17th overall). Barnidge has as many receptions as Gronk (40) and only has 79 less receiving yards than Gronk (567). The latest report is that Johnny Manziel will be under center this week for the Browns but either way Gronkidge is a good play versus the Bengals. The Bengals were just abused by Heath Miller last week for a monster line of 10/105.  Why pay $8500 for Gronk when you can have Gronkidge for $6600 on FanDuel? I’m playing Barnidge in cash and GPP games this week with no reservations.

Bargain Bin Play

Martellus Bennett- Chicago Bears $5400

at San Diego Chargers (MNF)

The “Black Unicorn” has been in hibernation for nearly a month. He typically prefers the warm weather and starts the season off with a bang. Bennett has been quiet since Week 4 and hasn’t topped 59 yards receiving since his big game versus the Raiders. He also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 4.  Given the current Bears situation with Matt Forte on the shelf, I’m expecting Bennett to step up and take on a larger role in the offense. He’s been heavily targeted by Cutty lately and has a nice matchup this week. The Bears travel to sunny San Diego to take on the Chargers. The Chargers defense has given up five touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. This week I’m expecting the Black Unicorn to re-emerge from his slumber and eat like a king. Bennett is a real bargain this week at his current FanDuel salary of $5400.

Defenses To Target

Cincinnati Bengals- $5000

vs Cleveland Browns (TNF)

The Bengals defense had a solid performance in Week 8 versus the Steelers. They forced timely turnovers intercepting Big Ben three times for the hat trick. In addition they held the Steelers high-octane offense to only 10 points. The AFC North leading Bengals got a lift on defense with the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict. This week the Bengals host the Browns in a Primetime Thursday night matchup. The news just broke today that Jonny Manziel will be starting for the Browns for an injured Josh McCown. This news cements the Bengals as a top-five defense in Week 9. The last time the Bengals faced Johnny Football they held him to 80 yards passing and intercepted him twice. The Browns offense will struggle to move the football with Manziel under center, who has played very little this season. They’ve struggled to run the ball in the past couple weeks and this game could get ugly early. I’m not expecting them to muster up more than 10-13 points against an underrated Bengals defense.

Buffalo Bills- $4700

vs Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are still licking their wounds from the 36-7 beat down the Patriots put on them this past Thursday night. I’m banking on the Dolphins suffering a hangover effect this week on the road in Buffalo. The Bills should get back starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and rookie Karlos Williams this week.  Shady McCoy will be rested up after the bye week so I’m expecting them to put the pedal to the metal and pile up the points.

The Dolphins have played a lot better under new Head Coach Dan Campbell but this is a tough matchup. They were no match for them back in Week 3 when the Bills steam rolled over them 41-14. My gut says Tanny throws a couple picks and the Bills are able to contain a resurgent Dolphins running game led by Lamar Miller. If the Bills come out of the gate playing Rex Ryan’s version of smash mouth football, they should be able to control the clock and make Tanny beat them with his arm. I have my doubts that he can do that with the pressure the Bills will bring up the middle and off the outside with Mario Williams. I do think Tannehill will get back on track but not this week in Orchard Park.

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