Welcome to the Daily Fantasy Roundup where we'll cover every inch of what you need to set a great FanDuel lineup every week. If you've been following this column all year, you should be absolutely pumped for Week 9.
We're now in the portion of the season where the good players rise to the top. We have a strong foundation of process, and finally own a concrete understanding of what these teams are. We know how many snaps most players will get, and we don't have to guess on who will get the most targets. Quality of opponent is easier to predict now, as defensive efficiency numbers and metrics are much more solid with at least five games worth of data on all these teams. The NFL is always unpredictable, and football DFS carries such high-variance with the season being so short, but the ground we stand on is growing ever more firm.
However, this will be a weird week. With so many teams on bye, and a few games with shootout potential, we'll likely just target assets from a few games. The real objective will be filling your lineup around those players. This is a "don't get cute" week; just hammer the top plays, and look for a small portion of contrarian plays for the one advantage.
All ownership percentage numbers come via Footballguys' Justin Bonnema. Follow him for more great DFS information.
Top quarterback plays
Ben Roethlisberger - Recency bias, and the sting on those who used him last week will keep Roethlisberger's ownership percentage down. He was only the sixth-highest played passer on the Thursday slate. It's a tad foolish, because he's in an ideal spot this week. Playing at home as a favorite, Roethlisberger is in line to far out produce the poor results put forth last week. His top two receivers should be licking their chops to get over on these Raiders cornerbacks, who give up the third-most receiver targets in the NFL, despite already having their bye week.
Eli Manning - He was a DFS winner in Week 9, and we're going back to the well this week. The Giants offense should be clicking with Odell Beckham completely recovered from his hamstring flare-up. They sure looked it against New Orleans, but overall their offense is slowly improving. This game could easily turn into a shootout in Raymond James Stadium. Manning is still a value relative to his performance among quarterbacks, and an easy play in DFS this week. Football Outsiders ranks Tampa Bay's defense as the worst at defending No. 1 wide receivers, so Beckham should go off for a second straight week.
Derek Carr - One of the most improved players in the NFL this season, Derek Carr looks like a legitimate franchise quarterback. Bill Musgrave is also doing a tremendous coaching job, putting all of his players in positions that play to their strengths. The Raiders up-tempo, yards-after-catch-based offense travels to Pittsburgh this week. Pittsburgh's defense took major strides the last few weeks. However, that was mostly on the back of their run defense and pass rush. With the way the Raiders get rid of the ball so quickly, the pressure should get neutralized, allowing Carr and his top two receivers to go to work on a still weak group of defensive backs.
Top running back plays
Devonta Freeman - No running back touches the ball more this year than Devonta Freeman. That workload hasn't decreased the last two weeks, yet Freeman hasn't found the end zone in that span. Bet on that changing in Week 9. Despite their status as the road team, the Falcons play the now Blaine Gabbert-led 49ers, and should be considered big favorites. A game script of that ilk spells plenty of work for Freeman, and multiple chances for him to break his touchdown drought. The 49ers rank 22nd in touchdown percentage allowed to running backs per touch. Freeman's lack of scores has his ownership percentage down from previous weeks to a still-high 25.2 percent on the Thursday slate, but that's far more manageable than before.
Chris Ivory - Another sure to be victim of recency bias, DFS players will likely move away from Ivory after he posted two dud weeks. However, he's in a tremendous spot in Week 9. With Ryan Fitzpatrick surprisingly set to start, despite having a damaged thumb, the Jets should feed Ivory in this game. In contests where he saw more than 20 carries this season, Ivory scored inside the top five fantasy running backs every time. At home, against an inferior Jaguars team, the game script is right for Ivory to get back to bullying defensive fronts. Jacksonville and their No. 28 ranking in fantasy points allowed per touch make for an easy target.
Jeremy Langford - After Matt Forte went down last week, Jeremy Langford handled all of the running back work for Chicago. As a rookie, he's rifled past all the other backs on the roster to serve as the primary backup. All indications are he'll be the workhorse for the Bears while Forte sits out with an MCL injury. He was a strong pass catcher in college, and Forte leaves big shoes to fill in that role. The Bears travel to face the Chargers on Monday night, who allow the highest yards per carry and second highest touchdown percentage per touch in the NFL. With Langford's value in the low-end range, he's worth a speculative look.
C.J. Anderson - On Sunday night, Anderson looked like the better pure runner than Ronnie Hillman, despite the latter reaching the end zone one more time than the former. And yet, Hillman is listed higher than Anderson on FanDuel, and higher owned on the Thursday slate. As a bargain play against a weak front, consider throwing out Anderson in some lineups to help you reach for more top-end plays in other spots.
Top wide receiver plays
Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown - All three of these high-end wide receivers are in play this week, and maybe even multiple ones in the same lineup. The trio are in favorable game scripts against pass defenses manned by league-worst personnel. Jones is the target hog of his offense, Beckham the pure game changer, and Brown in line for a double-digit catch game in Ben Roethlisberger's second game back from injury. Do what you can to get these players in your DFS lineup.
Amari Cooper - While having a dynamic rookie season, the young Cooper hasn't made much of a dent in the stat sheet in his two killer matchups lately. He totaled a combined nine catches for 93 yards against Denver and the New York Jets in two of the last three weeks. He's a rookie; it's crazy to expect much else. However, he followed his letdown against Denver with a 5-133 and one touchdown monstrous effort against the Chargers, and he's in line for a similar bounce back from the Jets game when Oakland travels to Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank 29th in wide receiver reception percentage allowed with 68.6 percent. We know Cooper can make things happen after the catch, and has the skills to get open on these Steelers cornerbacks. Oakland and Pittsburgh's tilt should find its way into the shootout territory, meaning you should stuff your lineup with these players.
Martavis Bryant - In theory, this should be a big Antonio Brown game, given that he is better equipped to takedown these bigger would-be press corners on the Raiders defense. These two Steelers receivers work in such strong harmony, that one doesn't have to seep production from the other. Bryant is a still a value relative to his upside, which as we saw in his first game back from suspension, is the top scoring wide receiver of the week. This could be yet another week where he gives your lineup an unfair advantage.
Allen Hurns - We'll play Hurns for the same reason Crabtree was in play last week. With Allen Robinson doing battle with Darrelle Revis all day, Hurns gets the easier matchups with overwhelmed safety Marcus Williams (a converted corner) and the inconsistent Antonio Cromartie. Both players really struggled to tackle last game, and it is not the primary skill of either corner. Hurns primarily runs crossing and quick out routes, which should put him in position for plenty of yards after catch chances against New York.
Michael Crabtree - Speaking of Crabtree, he's right back in play for DFS players this week, for much of the same reason we like Cooper. He's been a steady producer, with a few blow-up games still in his arsenal. We like the Oakland passing offense because it's become quite predictable, in a good way. Since Week 2, Crabtree holds a 32 percent share of the team's passing targets, with Cooper checking in at 27 percent. We love passing games where the two best players soak up well over 50 percent of the looks, especially in high-scoring affairs against plus matchups.
Steve Johnson - With Keenan Allen out, Johnson assumes the target leading role among the wide receivers, and is still a tremendous value after a quiet game last week. You don't see wide receivers in the punt play range that could get 10 targets in the NFL's pass happiest offense very often. The Bears bleed touchdowns through the air, allowing a score on a league-leading 10.2 percent of the targets against them.
Top tight end plays
Rob Gronkowski - With appealing players at the high-end value range at both running back and wide receiver, it'll be a chore to fit Gronkowski into your lineup. However, with Eifert already gone to the Thursday slate, Benjamin Watson's ownership out of control (highest of the week on Thursday with 17 percent) and obvious sleepers like Heath Miller prohibitively listed in the top-five started tight ends on FanDuel, you're essentially piddling around with low-end options if you don't take Gronk. You probably can't swing it much, but just be aware what you are getting into if you decide "not to Gronk."
Jordan Reed - In a pass heavy matchup, Reed should be a no-brainer optimal target. However, the Patriots rank fifth in fantasy points allowed to tight ends per target, and Bill Belichick historically likes to take away what the offense does best. With their running game still in the gutter, that player is Jordan Reed. With all that being said, Reed should still lead the team in targets in a game where Washington will throw to catch up. At his value, TE1 upside is hard to ignore.
Charles Clay - The Bills tight ends saw more targets per game (nine) from EJ Manuel than he did from Tyrod Taylor (6.6), but the quality of those targets dropped his points per game output from 9.84 to 7.4. The dip in production was enough to send Clay's value down a few notches. With Taylor set to return, Clay is back in as a punt play at tight end. Last time he faced his old team in Miami, he went for five catches, 82 yards and an impressive touchdown. With Sammy Watkins still on the mend, Clay should be the apple of the returning Taylor's eye.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins - The New York Giants allow the second-most receptions per game and the most yards per game to the tight end position. This indicates that tight ends have a chance to steadily gain yards, and are not dependent on touchdowns to put up fantasy points on the Giants. They long hold a preference for heavy-footed linebackers, and injuries wiped out their safety positon to the point where Landon Collins, a rookie from Alabama, is their only regular. Seferian-Jenkins should return from a nagging injury that's held him out since Week 2. If he does, he's the best value tight end of the weekend. James Winston helped the combination of Brandon Myers and Cameron Brate (?) catch 100 percent of their targets last week for 80-plus yards and a touchdown. Going back to Florida State, he loves throwing to this positon.
Top defense plays
Rams DEF - With so many clear and obvious plays at DEF this week, the high-end Rams went slightly overlooked. The Rams were only 4.8 percent owned on the Thursday slate, which is nothing compared to the other popular plays in Week 9. The Vikings don't have a good passing offense right now, and frankly don't match up well with the Rams defense at all. If this game was in St. Louis, this would be a no question popular play, but it's a strong contrarian move.
Saints DEF - This one is a sneaky good play this week. The Titans offense is in shambles with their rookie quarterback coming back from injury, Kendall Wright on the shelf and Antonio Andrews as the newly-crowned feature back. The Saints should have plenty of chances to tee off on Marcus Mariota after they build a good lead. We're looking for a way to get up to the stud receivers and running backs this week, and the Saints DEF might be the best way to do so.
Stack of the week
With so many candidates for stacking listed throughout this piece from the three major games on the slate, feel free to pick and choose your combinations. Any one of a Manning/Beckham, Carr/Cooper or Crabtree, Roethlisberger/Brown or Bryant, or a triple stack involving the latter two could be big winners this week
LeGarrette Blount/Patriots DEF - With the Patriots expected to beat Washingon by multiple scores, LeGarrette Blount comes into play. He saw 17 carries when the Patriots blew out Miami, and 18 in their shellacking of the Dolphins. He scored 7.9 and 27.7 FanDuel points in those games, respectively, so we know there is a wide range of outcomes. However, the game script is worth chasing in GPPs, and the Patriots DEF makes a strong correlation play, as they're sure to snag a turnover or two off Kirk Cousins as he tries to sling his way out of a deficit.
Best contrarian play
Melvin Gordon - Before you close the window, just know I am the antithesis of a Melvin Gordon truther. He was my fourth ranked running back coming out of this draft, and I figured he'd struggle early as a pro. Before the season, I wrote why I was completely out on his redraft price, and I've probably used him zero times in DFS this year. However, I'll turn to him in a handful of lineups in Week 9. The similarly offensive line-deficient Minnesota Vikings manhandled the Chicago Bears on the front line last week. So while Gordon doesn't have great blocking, the Bears (4.48 yards per carry allowed) may be the softest front he's faced thus far as a pro. Even more enticing, the Chargers are back to really trying to make Melvin Gordon happen. They stuffed him with 23 touches last week, despite it being a perfect script for Danny Woodhead. Perhaps they know their season slipped down the drain, and are now trying to evaluate their first-round pick for the future. Gordon might not be that great of a running back, but he's not a worthless player. At some point, his talent will show up in the stat sheet, and at the very least, all these touches will result in him finding the end zone. With all the disappointment, the DFS community is completely off him. He was just 1.2 percent owned on the Thursday slate, and his value has dropped into a range where you're risking nothing by playing him. Gordon could be yet another key to getting up to Mark Ingram and two stud receivers in a GPP, and if he gets into the end zone for his first career score, you're cooking.
DeSean Jackson - Normally caution is advised when it comes to using players just coming off injury, but it may be worth it to make an exception here, in a small sprinkling of lineups. Jackson is such a bargain on DFS sites now, after missing every game since Week 1 with a hamstring malady, and is completely off the daily fantasy radar. However, we know he always has the capability for a long bomb, and only needs to catch one of those for a score to return value in your lineup. He returns to the perfect game to do so, with Washington traveling to New England. This game should get out of hand early, forcing Kirk Cousins into a game flow where he throws 40-plus passes. Some of those will find their way to Jackson, and if he gets loose, he'll be a low-owned, week-winner for you.
Best obvious play
Alshon Jeffery - The Bears stud receiver was the highest owned wideout on the Thursday slate at 20.3 percent, but fading him is ill-advised. Since his return to the lineup, Jeffery is the recipient of 36 percent of Jay Cutler's passing targets. That sort of volume mixed with supreme talent listed outside the high-end tier of FanDuel receivers is simply too good to pass up.
My near 100 percent exposure player
Mark Ingram - With point chasers going heavy on the New Orleans passing game after their explosive outlier game, you should fade them and go heavy with Mark Ingram. Prior to last week's shootout with the Giants, this was an Ingram based offense, as he absorbed 18.9 touches per game. He could be in line for even more volume. Per Rotoworld's Evan Silva on his Fantasy Feast Podcast, Ingram averaged 25.7 touches per game when Khiry Robinson missed games last season. With Robinson now out for the season, Ingram should only be more of a workhorse for this offense. The Titans are a sneaky solid pass defense, allowing just seven yards per pass play. Ingram should be the focal point of the offense in Week 9. With the rash of injuries, Ingram should push for top-five running back status the rest of the way (already the RB2 overall in PPR leagues), but is valued far outside that range on FanDuel.
Cheat code of the week
Brandon LaFell - In the punt play range of receivers, LaFell is an easy choice for this slot in Week 9. After a debut with multiple drops, LaFell managed just four catches for 47 yards in the Patriots blowout of Miami last Thursday. Nevertheless, he's a 77 percent snap player in the NFL's best offense, and getting 7.5 targets per game from the best quarterback in football. Remember too that last year the Patriots stuck through it with LaFell while he struggled to pick the offense up. He didn't make an impact until Week 4, and was the WR15 from that game onward. He faces a defense ranking 26th in fantasy points allowed per targets to wide receivers, making this the perfect spot for him to get rolling. Again, in the theme of getting up to Ingram and the big named wideouts, LaFell is a fine punt play to make room in your lineup.