The NFL Handbook – Week 9

I’ve analyzed each of the 13 Week 9 matchups, and this handbook is the product. Statistical analysis, betting picks, fantasy football analysis… Everything you need to prepare for this week’s action.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the guys you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups. Either way, they should be in your lineups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start typically, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low(er) ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Complete Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injury updates, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment, shoot me an email:, or hit me up on Twitter: @maxingyourodds

Baltimore Ravens (4-4, 4-4 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (4-3, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: TEN -4.5

O/U: 43

BAL 9.37 (2nd) 19.72 (28th) 13.63 (2nd) 8.99 (25th) 8.38 (19th) 8.13 (19th)
TEN 17.00 (21st) 16.90 (12th) 21.19 (21st) 6.74 (13th) 7.14 (16th) 10.57 (29th)

Both of these teams like to run the football, but as I mentioned in this week’s Matchups that Matter, neither is likely to find much success this week.

For the Ravens, you might be inclined to roll with Alex Collins after he nearly matched his entire yardage output from a season ago on Thursday night. Well, Tennessee has allowed just 3.4 yards per carry to opposing backs (5th lowest), and through seven games, a mere two backs have found the end zone on the ground against them.

There’s also a chance that Ryan Mallett will be their starting QB.

No thanks. I’m good.

On the Titans side, you might see that Baltimore has allowed 119 rushing yards per game (3rd highest), over four yards per carry, and 19.7 fantasy points per game (5th most) and think this is Murray’s week…

It’s not.

The return of Brandon Williams has had an immeasurable impact on this front-seven, and they just held Miami to a total of 45 yards on 19 carries. Actually, Ajayi’s 1st carry Thursday night went for 21 yards. After that, the Dolphins put up just 24 yards on 18 carries. Then, there’s the part about Murray rushing for more than 60 yards just once this season, having a total of two rushing TDs, and LG Quinton Spain being listed as doubtful.

Yeah. No thanks.

It is worth noting that Javorius Allen has seen 42 targets in the passing game on the season; more than all but five RBs. Seeing how the Titans are allowing five receptions and 56.1 receiving yards per game to opposing backs, you have to like Buck’s odds at finding success through the air in this one.

Secondarily, Derrick Henry has been seeing more action in recent weeks, so if you have room to stash him, stash him. It looks like him becoming the lead back is more a matter of when than if at this point. But again, not the best week to plug him in your lineup.

I don’t think there will be much passing either. Of the nine QBs Baltimore has faced this season, only two have thrown for more than 200 yards, none have reached 250, and the 9 passing TDs they’ve allowed are the 6th fewest. You can start Mariota if you choose, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Oh, and did I mention Mallett might start at QB for the Ravens? Yeah… Even if he doesn’t, Flacco hasn’t been worth a damn himself, and Tennessee has limited QBs to 205.5 passing yards per game with five interceptions over their last four – this includes a matchup against the G.O.A.T. Deshaun Watson – and only Russell Wilson has thrown for more than 300 on them.

Flacco + Mallett still doesn’t equal Russell Wilson.

I mean, there’s really not much more to say here besides if you like offense, avoid this game at all costs. Even the highlights.

Ravens 16 – Titans 19

Ballers: Justin Tucker? Ryan Succop?

Under the Radar: Javorius Allen

Temper Expectations: Alex Collins, Jeremy Maclin, Ben Watson, Nick Boyle, Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Corey Davis, Delanie Walker

Bums: Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5, 1-5-1 ATS) at New Orleans Saints (5-2, 5-2 ATS)

Spread: NO -7

O/U: 50

TB 18.92 (26th) 18.70 (21st) 26.36 (29th) 6.50 (10th) 4.57 (9th) 8.00 (15th)
NO 15.28 (15th) 18.51 (20th) 19.90 (17th) 6.29 (7th) 3.14 (6th) 7.29 (11th)

The Saints and Bucs have split their season series in each of the last two seasons, and though they currently find themselves on opposite ends of the standings, there’s plenty to suggest that this matchup will be a battle as well.

For starters, despite both teams having a bevy of talent on the defensive side of the ball, neither defense has been very consistent with regard to the run.

After four straight solid performances against the run – which they allowed just 1 rushing TD and an average of 77 rushing yards per game – New Orleans has allowed back-to-back 100+ yard rushers, and 2 rushing TDs over that span. They’re also generously allowing RBs to pick up 4.4 yards per carry. So, while the Bucs haven’t found much success running the football to start the season, you’ll want to have Doug Martin in your lineups this week.

I couldn’t create a more coincidental situation if I tried, but Tampa also started the season with four solid performances against the run; which they allowed an eerily similar 1 rushing TD and 76 rushing yards per game. In their two games since, they’ve allowed 3 rushing TDs and faced the Panthers who make a solid case for the worst rushing team in the league (excluding Cam). You’ll want Ingram, and Kamara in your lineups this week as well.

Secondly, both of these offenses rank in the Top-10 in terms of passing, and neither defense has had much success with defending the pass.

True, the Saints secondary has held opposing QBs to just 182 passing yards per game while allowing just 3 TDs and racking up 9 INTs over their five game win streak. They also faced Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Brett Hundley, and Mitch Trubisky. In Week 6, Stafford dropped 312 yards on them with 3 TDs.

Yes, Winston is dealing with a gimpy shoulder, but when Fitzpatrick was called upon against the Cardinals he responded with 290 yards and 3 TDs. If Winston can’t go on Sunday, the vet should be more than capable of moving the football.

Needless to say, you’re starting your QBs, WRs, and TEs in this one with no hesitation.

The only real point of concern here will be turnovers. The Bucs have 10 takeaways on the season, to 11 from the Saints. And ultimately, I believe that’s what decides the game. Over the past three seasons, the average margin of victory between these two has been 5.8 points per game, and three of the last four between these two have been decided by exactly seven points.

This one isn’t likely to be a blowout either; so I’ll take the +7.

Bucs 27 – Saints 31

Ballers: Jameis Winston, Doug Martin, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn

Under the Radar: Coby Fleener

Temper Expectations: O.J. Howard, Brandon Coleman

Bums: Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims

Los Angeles Rams (5-2, 4-3 ATS) at New York Giants (1-6, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: LAR -4

O/U: 43.5

LAR 13.26 (8th) 22.90 (31st) 16.03 (7th) 5.97 (6th) 3.71 (8th) 6.00 (3rd)
NYG 19.09 (27th) 17.71 (15th) 18.83 (15th) 13.83 (32nd) 7.86 (17th) 8.00 (15th)

The lone bright spot for this Giants offense has been the play of rookie TE Evan Engram. One of the many bright spots for this Rams defense has been defending opposing TEs.

Through seven games, the Rams have allowed just three TDs to the TE position, and the 34 yards they’ve allowed them per game are the 2nd fewest in the league. It’s no fluke either, as they’ve faced Jack Doyle, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, and Jimmy Graham; all of whom rank among the Top-15 TEs in yards this season.

Not good.

Now, all signs are pointing towards WR Sterling Shepard lacing them up for the 1st time since Week 5 – which is a plus – but the Rams have also shut down opposing WRs. LA hasn’t allowed a receiver to find the end zone in three straight games, and they’ve limited opposing WRs to 138.9 yards per game collectively.

The one chink in the armor of this Rams defense has been defending the run. Luckily for the Rams, this just so also happens to be the weakest point of this Giants offense. So, while the Rams have allowed 106 yards per game (8th most), 4.6 yards per carry (5th highest), and seven rushing TDs through seven games, it might not even matter. You can expect to see plenty of Orleans Darkwa – who’s looked better in recent weeks – and Wayne Gallman – who’s impressed despite limited touches – but the Giants offensive line is an injured mess. So, unless your RB situation is dire, you shouldn’t consider Gallman but you can probably get away with Darkwa this week.

Another problem for this Giants team – outside of the injuries and the fact that they don’t score many points – is that they also rarely prevent people from scoring points on them. They’ve allowed 269 passing yards, and 2 passing TDs per game to opposing QBs while giving up 102 rushing yards, and 4.1 yards per carry to opposing RBs. Oh, and they’ll be without Janoris Jenkins and possibly Olivier Vernon, Kerry Wynn, Jonathan Casillas, and B.J. Goodson… Against one of the top offenses in the league.

Not good.

Rams 30 – Giants 16

Ballers: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods

Under the Radar: Tyler Higbee

Temper Expectations: Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram

Bums: Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Eli Manning, Shane Vereen

Denver Broncos (3-4, 2-4-1 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-1, 6-2 ATS)

Spread: PHI -7.5

O/U: 44

DEN 14.46 (14th) 10.73 (1st) 14.49 (4th) 11.19 (31st) 12.00 (30th) 9.86 (26th)
PHI 17.52 (23rd) 14.41 (5th) 20.31 (19th) 9.11 (26th) 3.63 (7th) 6.25 (5th)

Brock Osweiler is starting at QB for the Broncos.

Moving on.

This Broncos defense has gone from the “No Fly Zone” to we’ll allow you to slightly hover. Despite limiting QBs to the 4th fewest passing yards per game, they’ve allowed multiple TD passes in four of their seven games – a total of 12 on the season (11th most) – and have allowed the 2nd highest yards per game average to opposing TEs.

Zach Ertz happens to be pretty good, and nothing else really matters.

I lost interest at “Brock Osweiler is starting at QB for the Broncos”.

PS – The Eagles have allowed a receiving TD to an opposing RB in three straight games. Devontae Booker has 10 receptions over the Broncos last three games, Jamaal Charles is 2nd with 6, and C.J. Anderson has 2.

Broncos: 13 – Eagles 23

Ballers: Zach Ertz

Under the Radar: Devontae Booker, Alshon Jeffery

Temper Expectations: Carson Wentz

Bums: Brock Osweiler, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, Demaryius Thomas et al., A.J. Derby, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Nelson Agholor

Atlanta Falcons (4-3, 2-5 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (5-3, 4-4 ATS)

Spread: CAR -1.5

O/U: 44

ATL 15.58 (17th) 18.83 (22nd) 18.37 (11th) 6.41 (9th) 5.71 (14th) 10.57 (29th)
CAR 12.48 (5th) 12.99 (3rd) 17.00 (8th) 7.00 (14th) 9.75 (25th) 7.38 (12th)

Yeah, so the Panthers are one of the best defenses in the league. They’ve allowed just 201.6 passing yards per game (5th), 66.6 rushing yards per game to opposing backs (3rd), and are giving up just 17.8 points per game.

This Falcons offense has averaged just 16.5 points per game over their last four, and Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards since Week 1. Adding insult to injury, his 9 TD passes put him tied for 21st with the likes of Blake Bortles and Trevor Siemian (who was just benched in favor of Brock Osweiler). Making matters even worse, Carolina has held every receiver they’ve faced under 90 yards, and Julio Jones is the only Falcons receiver to put up a 90+ yard receiving game on the season (he’s put up 3 – 108 Week 2, 91 Week 3, 99 Week 7).

Meanwhile, Devonta Freeman is on pace for yet another 1,000 yard, 11 TD season, but in 6 career games against the Panthers, he’s averaged just 44 yards rushing and has a total of 2 TDs. Tevin Coleman has also been effective, putting up 50 all-purpose yards in four of the Falcons seven games (over 100 in two).

Thing is, Mark Ingram’s 86 all-purpose yards are the most this Carolina defense has allowed to a RB on the season, no back has reached 75 yards rushing on them, they’ve allowed just three rushing TDs, and not a single RB has caught a TD pass against them.

On the other sideline, the Panthers have averaged just 14.3 points over their last three games, and Cam Newton has averaged 201.3 passing yards per game with 2 TDs and 6 INTs over that stretch. His leading receiver now calls Buffalo home, and he’ll be facing a Falcons defense which has allowed just 238 passing yards per game while limiting opposing QBs to a whopping 6.1 rushing yards per game.

Oh, and through eight weeks, the Panthers running backs have combined to put up 464 rushing yards; which is fewer than 13 backs have individually.

Both of these offenses are struggling, and it doesn’t appear that’ll change this week. It’ll be a miracle if this game produces 44 points.

Falcons 17 – Panthers 20

Ballers: Julio Jones

Under the Radar: Mohamed Sanu

Temper Expectations: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Devin Funchess

Bums: Tevin Coleman, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, Curtis Samuel, Russell Shepard, Ed Dickson

Cincinnati Bengals (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3, 4-3 ATS)

Spread: JAX -3.5

O/U: 39.5

CIN 13.89 (11th) 15.86 (8th) 15.97 (6th) 6.60 (10th) 9.86 (26th) 9.29 (24th)
JAX 7.75 (1st) 19.26 (24th) 12.89 (1st) 7.84 (19th) 4.71 (11th) 7.00 (9th)

Raise your hand if you can name the differences between a Bengal tiger and a jaguar…

Put your hand down; there aren’t any.

Both have stout defenses, mediocre (at best) offenses, and quarterbacks that give me a headache.

The Jags moniker fits; as they run well. Problem is, the Bengals have allowed just 3.7 yards per carry and just two rushing TDs to opposing backs on the season. Cincinnati really doesn’t do anything well on offense (unless you count not scoring points), and while Jacksonville presents a favorable matchup on the ground, so did the Colts, and Packers.

Neither led to positive results.

You probably aren’t starting anyone from either of these teams on a regular basis besides Leonard Fournette, and A.J. Green. Fournette should accumulate some yardage based on volume alone, but as mentioned earlier, the odds on him finding the end zone aren’t in his favor.

Meanwhile, Green has been held to less than 45 yards in consecutive games, only Antonio Brown has put up more than 75 yards on the Jags, and no receiver has scored on them since Week 1. The odds aren’t exactly in his favor either.

Bengals 13 – Jaguars 16

Ballers: Leonard Fournette

Under the Radar:

Temper Expectations: Joe Mixon, A.J. Green

Bums: Everyone else except the DSTs, and kickers

Indianapolis Colts (2-6, 4-4 ATS) at Houston Texans (3-4, 5-2 ATS)

Spread: HOU -13

O/U: 48

IND 19.15 (27th) 22.54 (30th) 23.88 (28th) 8.46 (21st) 12.88 (32nd) 11.00 (32nd)
HOU 19.31 (29th) 13.57 (4th) 23.37 (27th) 9.43 (27th) 8.86 (22nd) 9.14 (23rd)

Remember last week when I mentioned that the Texans were allowing 14.4 yards per reception, and that Paul Richardson ranked 8th among WRs at 16.8? Well, did you see what Paul Richardson did to this defense? How about Tyler Lockett?

If you didn’t, suffice it to say the 14.4 yards per reception the Texans were allowing opposing WRs prior to last week’s game now stands at 15.2. And interestingly, only their opposition – the Indianapolis Colts – have allowed a higher rate (16 yards per reception).

Fun Fact: T.Y. Hilton leads all WRs gaining 18.2 yards per reception, and Donte Moncrief ranks 18th at 15.1… Expect them both to have a few big plays here.

Now, the Texans have also allowed the 4th most rushing yards to opposing QBs. And, while Jacoby Brissett isn’t the most nimblest of fellows, he manages to get the job done with his legs.

And on the Texans side? Listen, it doesn’t take a genius or a fantasy “expert” to figure out this one…

Start everyone (who has fantasy relevance) with the exception of the Colts RBs. Literally.

Colts 24 – Texans 34

*Update: Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL, and is done for the season. All is wrong with the world. I want no parts of this Texans offense, outside of the TEs, until further notice. Still, start everyone on the Colts who doesn’t play running back.

Arizona Cardinals (3-4, 1-6 ATS) at San Francisco 49ers (0-8, 4-4 ATS)

Spread: ARI -1

O/U: 39.5

ARI 19.34 (29th) 16.79 (11th) 26.63 (31st) 7.39 (16th) 9.43 (24th) 9.29 (24th)
SF 20.31 (31st) 25.45 (32nd) 21.35 (22nd) 5.48 (3rd) 9.00 (23rd) 10.63 (31st)

I once worked at Foot Locker, and it was dope. I got a discount on shoes, worked in the mall – so there was an endless supply of beautiful women – and the vibe in the store was right up my alley. Problem was, I also had to deal with rude, and messy people all day (not to mention the kids of these rude, and messy people) and the pay was less than ideal.

Ultimately, that just didn’t work out…

Well, this matchup feels a lot like Foot Locker.

Pretty much every QB to face either the Cardinals or 49ers has balled out, and with six teams on bye this week, this would seem to be a streamer’s delight. Thing is, Drew Stanton and C.J. Beathard are probably the kids of rude, and messy people.

… it’s not like either of these offenses was all that impressive with Carson Palmer or Brian Hoyer at the helm, though. For what it’s worth, I do believe both QBs will put up serviceable fantasy numbers.

Cardinals 20 – 49ers 16

Ballers: Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald

Under the Radar: Drew Stanton, C.J. Beathard, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson

Temper Expectations: John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Carlos Hyde, Pierre Garcon

Bums: Jermaine Gresham, George Kittle

Washington Redskins (3-4, 2-5 ATS) at Seattle Seahawks (5-2, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: SEA -7

O/U: 45

WAS 16.48 (18th) 17.97 (17th) 15.36 (5th) 10.73 (29th) 8.57 (21st) 10.14 (28th)
SEA 13.95 (11th) 15.74 (7th) 20.91 (20th) 7.20 (15th) 1.71 (3rd) 6.86 (7th)

Unfortunately, for the Redskins, they don’t have Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, or a healthy offensive line (or team for that matter). But, one thing that will work in their favor is S Earl Thomas being listed as doubtful.

This Seahawks defense just isn’t the same without him.

In the 11 games he played last season (before breaking his leg), the Seahawks D allowed an average of 17.6 points. In the six without Thomas, the defense gave up an average of 23.3. Yes, that was last season. However, the ‘Hawks are also without Cliff Avril, and we all saw what the Texans were able to do on Sunday.

Again, Kirk Cousins is by no stretch of the imagination comparable to Deshaun Watson. But, the point here is that the matchup isn’t as much of an issue with Cousins this week; it’s the play of his offensive line, and the barrage of injuries Washington has suffered.

Speaking of which, the barrage hasn’t been choosy. Offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff… If you’re a part of the Redskins organization, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer an injury at some point this season. That said, 3rd leading tackler LB Mason Foster will miss this game, and the list of questionables for this D is novelesque.

But, the good news is, Josh Norman is back.

What impact that actually had on this defense is hard to gauge – as their game last week was played in a swamp. However, there’s no debating that this secondary is much, much better with him on the field. So, it’s probably not wise to expect a repeat performance from this Seattle passing attack.

However, the addition of Duane Brown should shore up this offensive line, and if Pete Carroll is a man of his word, we’ll “see a lot of Eddie Lacy this week”. The Redskins run D has been hit or miss this season, and given the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, Lacy could have himself a nice day. He’s the clear favorite – over Rob Kelley – to win this week’s Jerome Bettis award.

Thompson is likely to take a L too; Seattle has allowed the 2nd fewest receiving yards to opposing backs. Obviously, all of this changes if Bobby Wagner or Sheldon Richardson can’t go, and they’re both game-time decisions. So, keep an eye on your favorite sports news feed before kick.

Redskins 10 – Seahawks 21

Ballers: Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham

Under the Radar: Eddie Lacy, Ryan Grant

Temper Expectations: Kirk Cousins, Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, Josh Doctson, Vernon Davis, Doug Baldwin

Bums: Terrelle Pryor, J.D. McKissic, Thomas Rawls, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2, 6-2 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (4-3, 4-3 ATS)

Spread: DAL -1

O/U: 48.5

KC 18.14 (24th) 17.45 (14th) 26.23 (29th) 7.58 (17th) 1.63 (2nd) 6.13 (4th)
DAL 16.87 (20th) 17.89 (16th) 23.11 (26th) 5.73 (4th) 3.00 (4th) 8.00 (15th)

This game should be one of the best of the week. Granted, that’s not saying much given some of the matchups on tap.

It sounds like there’s a chance Ezekiel Elliott plays on Sunday. It also sounds like there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t. Surely, we’ll have a definitive answer by Sunday, but if you haven’t picked up your backup plan yet, you should probably get on that.

Now if loyalty is your thing, Alfred Morris figures to be the one you’ll want to own should Elliott not go. And, if loyalty isn’t your thing, well Morris might still be the way to go. The Chiefs are allowing 107.6 rushing yards per game to opposing backs (7th most), 4.5 yards per carry (6th highest), and have given up a rushing TD in three straight.

Whoever is back there on Sunday should put up some decent numbers.

Dak should too.

Steven Nelson returned for the Chiefs last week, and while that’s great news for this struggling secondary, it’s not reason enough to fade Prescott. Kansas City has allowed 273 passing yards per game, and just seven teams have allowed more rushing yards per game to opposing QBs. Oh, and only four teams have allowed more yards per game to opposing TEs than the Chiefs. Looking at you Jason Witten.

Defensively, though? Well, the Cowboys haven’t fared much better against the pass. Again, their last game was played in a swamp, but in the five previous games, QBs put up 253 passing yards per game, 11 TDs, and an average of 20 fantasy points.

Alex Smith is 2nd in passing yards, 3rd in TDs, and 2nd in fantasy points… He also hasn’t thrown an interception.

Dallas has allowed just one TD to a TE on the season, and that lone score came back in Week 2. Obviously, you’re starting Kelce in your season long leagues, but in DFS? Nah, he’s not worth the price.

Needless to say, there’s a reason why this game had the 2nd highest opening point total of the week. We should see an abundance of offense, and happy fantasy owners.

*Update: Zeke lives to see another week.

Chiefs 31 – Cowboys 27

Ballers: Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten

Under the Radar: De’Anthony Thomas

Temper Expectations: Cole Beasley

Bums: Alfred Morris, Terrance Williams

Oakland Raiders (3-5, 3-5 ATS) at Miami Dolphins (4-3, 3-3-1 ATS)

Spread: OAK -2.5

O/U: 43.5

OAK 16.48 (18th) 19.59 (27th) 18.78 (14th) 8.05 (20th) 6.50 (15th) 10.13 (27th)
MIA 15.48 (16th) 16.17 (11th) 17.93 (9th) 8.54 (22nd) 10.86 (28th) 6.86 (7th)

What’s the most logical thing to do when you possess the league’s worst offense? Clearly, the answer is to trade away the guy who’s arguably your best player. And, add an emphatic “Duh!” for good measure.

If you haven’t heard, Jay Ajayi is no longer a Dolphin. And, it kinda makes sense. But, my job here isn’t to play GM, so I’ll leave that discussion for another time. What matters here is that this backfield will be lead by Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake moving forward. Sure, some of you are probably thinking “who?” while others may be thinking”…and?!”, but hear me out.

95, 73, 55, 83, 87, 151… Those are the individual yardage totals of the backs who’ve seen at least 10 carries against this Raiders defense over the past five weeks. For you mathematically inclined folks, that’s an average of 108.8 yards per game. The Raiders have also allowed a rushing TD in three of their last four games, and are allowing an average of 5.6 receptions per game to opposing backs.

Now, all signs point towards Drake seeing the bulk of the carries in this offense; Williams has been more of a 3rd down back. But, on the season Williams has 12 carries, and Drake has 10. So the numbers (and logic) suggest it’ll be a committee; we just have no way of determining how it actually plays out. But, given the matchup, taking a flier on either guy this week isn’t the worst of ideas.

The same can be said for Jay Cutler (the worst of ideas part is a bit more debatable). The Raiders have a total of zero interceptions on the season, and QBs have a 108.2 QB rate against them; which is the highest rate against any team. They’ve also allowed five passing TDs over the past three weeks, and Cutler did throw two TDs in each of the last two games he appeared in.

Oh, and did I mention they have zero interceptions on the season?

On the other hand, this Dolphins pass defense has been largely respectable. They haven’t allowed a QB to throw for more than 250 yards over their last four, and have held the opposing signal callers to a single TD pass in six of their eight games. Now sure, we all remember Carr’s 417 yard, 3 TD performance in Oakland’s comeback win against the Chiefs. However, we can’t ignore the fact that even with that ballerish evening, he’s still averaging just 213 passing yards per game, and boasts a ho-hum 1.85 TD:INT ratio.

I’m not suggesting you bench Carr this week, though.

He’s coming off his two best games this season, and is still working his way back to full strength; less than stellar numbers were to be expected out the gates. Not to mention, Miami has allowed at least one TD catch to a receiver in three straight games, and two straight to a TE. Meanwhile, Carr is averaging nearly two TD passes per game.

So, while the matchup doesn’t favor him throwing it all over the yard Sunday night, there’s a good chance a couple TDs will bail him out. Yes, that’s a risk you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to take, but with six teams on bye, you probably just have to roll the dice.

Seven. Eleven.

I couldn’t finish this without mentioning that Marshawn Lynch will be back for this one. Thing is, he just hasn’t been very good; so maybe I could have.

His 266 yards rank 32nd, his two rushing TDs are fewer than five QBs, and his 38 yards per game aren’t bringing you a fantasy championship any time soon. Yes, Collins/Allen just ran all over the boys in teal, but prior to that, Miami was allowing just 78.7 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs and only three backs have found the end zone against them via the run this season.

The week off was probably rejuvenating, but no thanks.

Now that the obligatory Lynch mention is out of the way, I wrote in the preseason about the Raiders +3 surplus in actual wins vs. their Pythagorean Win Expectation, and their unlikely to be repeated success (good luck) in close games last season. Both of which suggested we’d see the regression we’re seeing now, (still) lead me to believe the Raiders aren’t as good as perceived, and are the icing on me liking the Dolphins in a bounce back spot here.

Raiders 20 – Dolphins 27

Ballers: Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills

Under the Radar: Jay Cutler, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams

Temper Expectations: Amari Cooper, Jared Cook

Bums: Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Julius Thomas

Detroit Lions (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (4-3, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: DET -2

O/U: 43

DET 13.59 (9th) 18.37 (19th) 21.89 (24th) 7.74 (18th) 10.00 (27th) 7.14 (10th)
GB 14.31 (13th) 21.39 (29th) 21.87 (23rd) 3.09 (1st) 8.43 (20th) 8.71 (22nd)

Heading into Week 9, only Jacoby Brissett has been sacked more than Matthew Stafford. Luckily, the Packers have averaged just 1.7 sacks per game and their 12 on the season are the 4th fewest.

Something has to give.

Stafford is still on pace for his 7th straight 4,000 yard passing season, but this Packers defense has still been pretty solid against the pass. Opposing QBs have thrown one (or fewer) passing TD in five of the Packers seven, just one has gone over 300, and four were held under 250. Thing is, Stafford just dropped 423 on a Steelers D which was allowing an average of 172.3 passing yards per game, and he’s thrown multiple TDs in four of seven.

Yet again, something has to give.

Meanwhile, only the Bills and Ravens have more interceptions than the Lions D, and in 7.5 quarters Brett Hundley has 4; more than Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, Tom Brady, and Alex Smith have on the season… He’s also averaging just 122 yards passing.

Aaron Jones looks legit, though. The rookie has rushed for more than 125 yards in two of the Pack’s last three, and he has a TD in each of those two contests. Also, Lions Haloti Ngata is done for the season, and in the two games they’ve played with him sidelined, opposing backs have put up 133 rushing yards per game, 4.4 yards per carry, and 3 TDs.

Jones should continue to ball out.

Now, the numbers (111.3 rushing yards allowed per game, 4.1 yards per carry, 5 rushing TDs) suggest his counterpart – Ameer Abdullah – will follow suit. There’s only one problem with trusting the numbers… There’s a reason Stafford has been sacked so many times, and it’s largely due to the poor play of this offensive line; along with a gaggle of injuries.

Greg Robinson is questionable, Tim Lelito is out, and while Taylor Decker returned to practice there’s no word on his status for Monday. Unless you want to read in to “we’ll see”. So, even if it equates to a horde of bench points, you want to leave Mr. Abdullah on the bench until we have evidence of improved line play.

… Or proof that he can produce despite it; which hasn’t even remotely been the case.

Honestly, same goes for Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson. Yes, Hundley is in the NFL for a reason. And yes, sometimes you have to take talent over circumstance. However, in the one full game with Hundley at the helm, the Packers WRs (Adams, Nelson, Cobb, and Allison) combined for 54 yards.

Again, I’m risking the bench points.

The Packers are interesting underdog here: at home, coming off their bye, Monday night… But, the Lions have lost three straight and can’t let this one get away.

Lions 30 – Packers 20

Ballers: Golden Tate, Aaron Jones

Under the Radar: Dwayne Washington, Marvin Jones

Temper Expectations: Matthew Stafford, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb

Bums: Eric Ebron, Brett Hundley, Ty Montgomery, Martellus Bennett

As always, thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe, and follow @maxingyourodds on Twitter to stay up to date with all of the latest fantasy advice and insight.


*Thursday Night Football*

Buffalo Bills (5-2, 5-1-1 ATS) at New York Jets (3-5, 5-2-1 ATS)

Spread: BUF -3.5

O/U: 43

BUF 12.36 (4th) 15.23 (6th) 18.00 (10th) 8.56 (23rd) 4.57 (9th) 7.71 (13th)
NYJ 17.16 (22nd) 19.36 (25th) 21.89 (24th) 9.96 (28th) 7.88 (18th) 5.63 (2nd)

The Jets have been largely impressive this season. They’ve also lost three straight games overall, and seven of the last ten in this series.

The good news for New York? Well, there isn’t any.

Buffalo has run the football on 53.8% of their offensive plays this season; only the Jags average more rushing attempts per game. And while New York has allowed just one rushing TD over their last six games, this Jets defense has given up about four yards per carry, and over 100 rushing yards per game to opposing backs. They’ve also allowed more rushing yards to opposing QBs than all but four teams.

Well, after a quiet start, LeSean McCoy has put up two straight Shady weeks; averaging 121 yards per game while picking up nearly five yards per carry and three TDs. And, Tyrod Taylor comes into this one with 175 rushing yards, 5th most among QBs.

There lies the problem.

Then, there’s the fact that NY has allowed 17 TD passes through eight games – allowing multiple TD passes in six of eight – and will be without CB Buster Skrine, and possibly CB Morris Claiborne. Needless to say, this Jets defense is trending in the wrong direction, but until we see what this Buffalo offense looks like with newly added WR Kelvin Benjamin, it’s probably best to take a wait and see approach on the receivers. However, if you’re looking for a flier Holmes, and/or Jones aren’t the worst gambles as the Bills should be able to move the ball without issue.

Josh McCown and co. might not have much trouble moving the ball either, though.

The Bills could possibly be without CB E.J. Gaines (for a 3rd straight week), and while that may seem minute – he’s just one guy – Buffalo has allowed three straight QBs to throw for more than 300 yards, while giving up five passing TDs over that three game stretch. Surprisingly, McCown ranks 10th in TDs and 14th in yards – ahead of guys like Derek Carr and Jared Goff – so seeing how Buffalo has been one of the toughest teams to run on, you have to figure the Jets will lean on McCown’s arm again in this one.

However, he does have seven interceptions to his name this season and Buffalo has collected two in five of their seven games. In fact, their 11 INTs on the season rank 2nd to only Baltimore; who’s played one additional game. As a whole, the Bills own a +14 turnover differential on the season, while the Jets sit at -1. So, if New York can protect the football here, they’ll be able to compete. However, the odds aren’t in their favor.

Bills 27 – Jets 20

Ballers: Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy

Under the Radar: Kelvin Benjamin, Andre Holmes, Zay Jones, Nick O’Leary, Josh McCown, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson

Temper Expectations: Bilal Powell, Matt Forte, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Bums: Jordan Matthews, Deonte Thompson, Elijah McGuire

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