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Fantasy Football: Players to embrace and avoid for Week 9
2:25 | Fantasy
Fantasy Football: Players to embrace and avoid for Week 9
Michael Beller and Andrew Perloff
Saturday November 5th, 2016

Week 9 marks our second-straight week with six teams on bye, but this is a much tougher challenge than we had a week ago. Among the teams taking a rest are the Patriots, Bengals, Redskins and Cardinals. Those four teams account for more than their fair share of fantasy mainstays, including stars at all four key fantasy positions. Even the other two teams on bye in Week 9, the Bears and Texans, feature players like Lamar Miller and Alshon Jeffery, who fantasy owners rely on every week. Things aren’t as ugly in the DFS game as they are in the season-long version of fantasy football, but losing those six teams thins out the talent pool considerably.

Below are my ideal picks for both DraftKings and FanDuel. I will be playing lineups other than the ones I present here, but these are my go-to lineups for both sites. Be sure to read on and check out Andrew Perloff’s plays, as well.

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Quarterback:

Aaron Rodgers (DK: $7,800, FD: $9,100) vs. Indianapolis

I’m going off-script and paying up for a quarterback this week because Rodgers is too good to be ignored. Over Rodgers’s last two games, he has completed more than 70% of his passes for 572 yards and seven touchdowns against zero interceptions. His yards per attempt numbers don’t jump off the page, but that’s largely thanks to the shifting nature of the Green Bay offense. Forced to adjust on the fly, the Packers have carved up their last two opponents with a variety of short and intermediate passes. The downfield fireworks may not be there, but the attack has been incredibly successful, playing to the strengths of the options at Rodgers’s disposal. The Colts have allowed the sixth-most points per game to quarterbacks this season. In just the last two weeks, Brock Osweiler and Nick Foles managed to score at least 16.4 standard-league points against them, and Foles didn't even play a full game. Rodgers could double that number on Sunday.

Running Backs:

Ezekiel Elliott (DK: $7,900, FD: $9,200) at Cleveland  

Can someone, I’m thinking maybe Rashad Jennings, tell Elliott what it’s like to score fewer than 11 fantasy points in an NFL game? Through the first seven games of his career, the Ohio State product has yet to fall short of that mark. In fact, Elliott has scored at least 14.5 points in all but one game this season, and that was his NFL debut. Enough has been said about Elliott’s rookie year exploits. The only person who can keep him from running away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award is his own teammate, Dak Prescott. Still, Elliott has to be considered the favorite, and he should add to his lore on Sunday. The Browns have allowed the third-most points per game to running backs this season. They’ve surrendered 4.74 yards per carry and 12 total touchdowns to the position. They have no hope of containing Elliott, and there's a good chance they won't even have a sympathetic crowd at home—the Ohio State legend is likely more beloved in Cleveland than the hapless Browns.

Jonathan Stewart (DK: $5,200, FD: $6,400) at Los Angeles

Stewart has had a quietly productive season, masked by an injury that cost him three games. In his two games since returning to the field, he has 180 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries. That carry total is nearly as encouraging as his actual performance the last two weeks. The Panthers aren’t shying away from pounding the ball with Stewart, a sure sign that the injury is behind him. It’s also hints at Cam Newton running less after he missed a game because of a concussion. Newton has nine carries the last two weeks, a small number for him over a two-game sample. The Rams have allowed an average of 121.7 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns to running backs this year.

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Theo Riddick (DK: $4,900, FD: $6,600) at Minnesota; 

Riddick made his return to action last week, totaling 133 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 19 touches. He carried the ball 11 times and caught it eight more, a great breakdown for his skill set. Despite a tough matchup with the Vikings, he’s too integral to the Detroit offense to be completely shut down, at least from a fantasy standpoint. He makes a great value play, especially on DraftKings.

Charcandrick West (DK: $4,400, FD: $5,600) vs. Jacksonville

Spencer Ware is still trying to get over a concussion he suffered last week, and has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Jaguars, so it's West who will start for the Chiefs. West ran the ball decently in relief of Ware, picking up 52 yards on 14 carries. With Ware and Jamaal Charles both out, though, West should have the backfield entirely to himself. The only other back on Kansas City’s roster is Bishop Sankey, who just signed with the Chiefs from the New England practice squad. West could rack up 20-plus touches against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 18.8 standard-league points per game to running backs.

Wide Receivers:

T.Y. Hilton (DK: $7,600, FD: $7,600) at Green Bay 

Hilton has been a bit boom-or-bust this season, putting up three games with at least 133 yards and a touchdown, and three more with fewer than five fantasy points. His full practice session on Thursday indicates that he will be not only good to go for Sunday, but that the hamstring injury he suffered last week is completely in his rear-view mirror. Hilton is racking up targets this season, totaling 82 through eight games. He has had at least 10 targets in six games, and only came up short last week because of the hamstring issue. The Packers, meanwhile, have surrendered the ninth-most points per game to receivers. Adding Hilton gives us a nice stack in this game by pairing him with Rodgers.

Terrelle Pryor (DK: $6,100, FD: $7,000) vs. Dallas

Pryor has had a couple quiet games of late, but he is, without question, a top-20 fantasy receiver. Going back to his Week 3 breakout performance against the Dolphins, he has averaged 5.83 catches, 9.67 targets, 72 yards, 0.5 touchdowns and 10.2 fantasy points per game. That may seem like convenient cherry picking, but remember that Pryor had all of two receptions in his career before this season. I think we can cut the guy some slack and give him a little time to learn the position at actual game speed. Over the last six weeks, we’ve seen him become a real weapon in the passing game. Corey Coleman is set to return from a hand injury this week, and that should be a boon to Pryor’s prospects. Coleman will take away enough attention from the defense without siphoning off too many targets, making his presence a net positive for Pryor.

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 Michael Thomas (DK: $5,500, FD: $5,800) at San Francisco

Like his fellow Buckeye Pryor, Thomas turned it on in Week 3 and hasn’t looked back since. He went on a four-game streak during which he had at least 100 yards or a touchdown. That was snapped last week, but all things considered putting a six-catch 63-yard game on the Seahawks is a fine real-life performance from a wide receiver, especially when his team comes away with a win. His assignment will be a whole lot easier this week with the Saints taking a trip to San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed the 12th-most points to receivers this year, and the only reason they aren’t higher is because of how bad they are against the run. Given the tumult in the New Orleans backfield, the Saints could focus on the pass more than the typical team does against the 49ers.

Tight End:

Eric Ebron (DK: $3,100, FD: $5,400) at Minnesota

Ebron returned last week after a three-game absence due to knee and ankle injuries. He looked no worse for wear, catching seven of his 10 targets for 79 yards. He now has at least 50 yards or a touchdown in all but one game this season, and that was the game in which he first suffered his leg injury. The Bears used Zach Miller early and often against the Vikings last week, and the tight end finished the game with seven receptions for 88 yards. You can bet the Lions have watched that tape and will try to replicate Chicago’s success. Ebron is the best dollar-for-dollar play at tight end this week.

 Antonio Gates (DK: $3,000, FD: $5,500) vs. Tennessee

Despite my love for Ebron, it feels like tempting fate to have two players from an offense going up against the Vikings. That’s why Gates makes it into this week’s DraftKings lineup. Hunter Henry will likely miss this game with a knee injury, opening the door for Gates to once again have the tight end workload all to himself. He has 19 targets over the last two weeks, and while he has turned that into just nine catches for 71 yards, he did find the end zone against the Broncos last week. If Henry’s out, another 10 targets are likely in order against the Titans.

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Kicker

Wil Lutz (FD: $4,500) at San Francisco

Lutz has exceeded expectations this year, but you know the drill here. He’s as cheap as it gets, he’s tied to a great offense, and the game total for Saints-49ers sits at 53 points. That’s everything we want from a kicker.

Defense/Special Teams

Green Bay Packers (DK: $2,700, FD: $4,500) vs. Indianapolis

The Green Bay pass rush has been getting after quarterbacks with consistency this season, racking up 19 sacks in seven games. They should be able to bring that force to bear against an Indianapolis team that has allowed a league-high 31 sacks this season. The Packers are also favored by a touchdown and playing at home, two contextual factors that typically translate well for a fantasy defense. Regardless of price, the Packers are my favorite defense for Week 9.

DraftKings lineup:

QB: Aaron Rodgers

RB1: Ezekiel Elliott

RB2: Charcandrick West

WR1: T.Y. Hilton

WR2: Terrelle Pryor

WR3: Michael Thomas

TE: Antonio Gates

FLEX: Theo Riddick

DST: Green Bay Packers

FanDuel lineup

QB: Aaron Rodgers

RB1: Ezekiel Elliott

RB2: Jonathan Stewart

WR1: T.Y. Hilton

WR2: Terrelle Pryor

WR3: Michael Thomas

TE: Eric Ebron

K: Wil Lutz

DST: Green Bay Packers

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Andrew Perloff

Last season I played Cam Newton and/or Russell Wilson every week in the second half of the season and caught fire. So I'll try a similar route this year: Drew Brees has been anchoring winning lineups over the last month for me, so I’m considering a heavy Brees/Aaron Rodgers diet to bring me home. Totally Captain Obvious and it’s not going to beat the algorithm crowd, but with a limited budget and time, you can be like me and end up in the black consistently. Or is it in the red? The one where you win money.

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers ($9,100 FanDuel, $ 7,800 DraftKings)

The Packers are relying on Rodgers’s arm more than ever because of running back injuries and he’s been a sure bet the last couple of weeks. His opponent, the Colts, were torched by a combo of K.C. QBs, Alex Smith and Nick Foles last week. Obviously, you’re not sneaking up on anyone with Rodgers, but hopefully he won’t be played as much as Dak Prescott is against Cleveland. 

Alternates

Prescott is going to efficiently get you points against the woeful Browns. We’ve been waiting for the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick to have a big running-passing combo day, and he’ll have a shot facing the Saints in San Francisco. And Marcus Mariota seems to be improving behind a solid offensive line in Tennessee, and has a good matchup against San Diego. You might strike gold with Foles against the Jags and he shouldn’t be highly owned.

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Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott ($9,200 FanDuel, $7,900 DraftKings)

This is simple math—it's the best run offense against Cleveland’s No. 31 run defense. Elliott had an off week against Philly and still accumulated 146 rushing-receiving yards. He hasn’t gotten into the end zone in two weeks, but that drought should change against the Browns.

Jay Ajayi ($7,100 FanDuel, $6,000 DraftKings)

This pick is way too obvious after Ajayi went for 200 yards two games in a row…. but this particular lineup puzzle landed in the $7K range on FanDuel at RB2. If Ajayi goes off I want to be there. The percentage of play on Ajayi is an issue (and his DK price isn’t as good) but people may shy away from him against the Jets’ No. 1 ranked run D. I do have an alternate set of lineups built around the Chiefs’ Charcandrick West, who will also be a popular play with injuries to Jamaal Charles and possibly Spencer Ware (concussion).

Alternates

Tim Hightower set the world on fire with 26 carries for 102 yards after the Saints pulled Mark Ingram for fumbling. But do you trust he’ll be the man again? If Devontae Booker’s shoulder is OK, the Broncos RB will put up points on Sunday night against Denver. And Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart is a nice bargain at L.A.—especially if the Panthers cut down on Cam Newton running in the red zone. 

Wide Receivers

Stefon Diggs ($6,500 FanDuel, $5,900 DraftKings)

This is a bet on new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur breathing life into the Vikings' stagnant offense. Diggs caught a late touchdown last week and reminded us that he’s a No. 1 WR talent, and he's worth jumping back on with this matchup against the Lions.

Donte Moncrief ($6,100 FanDuel, $5,800 DraftKings)

I’ve been dying to get Moncrief in my lineup all season and now that he’s healthy and in the Colts mix (9 targets last week), he should take off. This could also be the highest scoring game of the day, so it’s wise to have exposure to Moncrief or T.Y. Hilton.

Michael Thomas ($5,800 FanDuel, $5,500 DraftKings)

Why isn’t this guy’s price going up? The rookie out of Ohio State caught six of six targets against the Seahawks’ great D. He has a chance to get loose against the Niners and targets keep coming his way.

Alternates

In my Charcandrick West lineups I’m giving the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry a shot against the Jets’ troubled pass D. If you want to buy into the Packers-Colts, Green Bay’s Davante Adams is a good option. The Rams’ Kenny Britt is worth a contrarian look against the Panthers’ sub-par secondary.

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Tight End

Travis Kelce, ($6,600 FanDuel, $5,300 DraftKings)

Kelce caught a touchdown from Foles last week and the backup QB seems to push the ball downfield more than Alex Smith. Not that the Chiefs are going to become the 1980s Chargers, but Foles should be able to find his big man in the red zone.

Alternates

Jack Doyle is a great way to buy into Colts-Packers. Kyle Rudolph may step up for the same reasons as Diggs. And San Diego’s Antonio Gates is getting interesting as rookie Hunter Henry deals with a knee injury.

Kicker

Will Lutz ($4,500 FanDuel)

The Saints kicker is coming off a career day in the Dome against the Seahawks. It'll obviously be under different conditions in the Bay Area, but New Orleans should be able to move the ball and get Lutz opportunities.

Defense

Kansas City Chiefs ($5,100 FanDuel, $3,500 DraftKings)

The Jags’ D-line is shaky and the Chiefs defense will smell blood if they get a lead. Seems like a good time to have money against Blake Bortles’s decision-making skills.

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