The 2020-21 NFL season has kicked off and there are huge Week 9 DFS contests being offered on FanDuel with big prize pools and exciting new formats such as Best Ball.
In this weekly column, we will identify the best plays, values, and tournament options for your NFL DFS lineups. We’ll also offer the best “fades” at each position, indicating which players to avoid when building your lineups.
Keep in mind that some of the plays offered are better for “Cash” games, i.e. 50/50, H2H, and Double-Up formats, which require a more conservative approach. Some plays are recommended for GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) tournaments where it’s necessary to take more risks in the hopes of separating from a large field. Those GPP plays can also be ideal for Best Ball formats where players with higher upside are valuable.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick-off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Please note any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if he doesn’t respond well in warm-ups.
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Sunday Rush: $9.99 entry, $250k guaranteed
Best Play: Justin Herbert ($7.9k)
After exceeding value with 278 passing yards and 3 TDs in a tough spot at Denver, Herbert is the best per dollar option in an easier matchup this week. The Chargers host a Raiders team that ranks 27th in DVOA pass defense and coughs up the eighth-most passing YPG (260.7) this year. Vegas is allowing 11.9 yards per reception and is allowing 60.3% of receptions to go for first downs. Herbert has been deadly with the deep ball and owns a 117.4 passer rating with 7 TDs and no picks over his last 2 home starts.
Value Play: Derek Carr ($7.0k)
The Raiders were unable to throw much in wintry conditions at Cleveland last week, so Carr remains cheap. Yet he’s averaging 293 passing YPG with a 71.2% completion rate at home and could produce similar results at an empty So-Fi Stadium. The Chargers normally stingy pass defense collapsed in Denver last week and is now giving up 32 PPG over their last 4 outings. While the Raiders employed a run-heavy approach last week, they pass on 60.56% of plays at home and this contest could also feature a lot of throwing.
GPP Play: Deshaun Watson ($8.3k)
Watson is more of a tournament play this week because we’re not sure if the Jaguars will keep pace offensively with rookie Jake Luton under center. The Texans defense is allowing the most points per drive (.371) this season, so it’s fair to assume Watson will see heavy volume against the Jags 32nd-ranked pass defense. He’s been extremely aggressive with the most yards per attempt (8.8) and fifth-most completed Air Yards this season. Watson is completing a league-high 88.2% of passes when given a clean pocket and the Jags ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate (3.1%)
Fade: Ben Roethlisberger ($7.7k)
The Steelers should dominate in Dallas this Sunday and Big Ben could post big numbers in the first half. But it’s hard to imagine him sustaining any volume down the stretch with T.J. Watt and the Steelers pass rush feasting on an injury-depleted Cowboys line and whichever backup QB is under center. Pittsburgh’s D/ST ($5.0k) is the preferred option this week.
Best Play: James Conner ($8.2k)
The Cowboys defensive line ranks 30th in adjusted RB Yards (5.0) and Dallas allows the most rushing YPG (170.9) this season. Conner has handled the ninth-most red zone touches (25) among RBs and the fourth-most goal-line carries (7) despite having his bye week and missing most of Week 1 due to injury. With the Steelers (-13.5) expected to roll, Conner is a great bet for scoring opportunities.
Value Play: Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($7.0k)
Paying up for Dalvin Cook ($9.3k) makes sense following his massive Week 8 performance. Yet a more balanced lineup becomes possible with Edwards-Helaire as a potential RB1 in a plush matchup. The Panthers have allowed the second-most rushing TDs (9) to RBs this season and the Chiefs (-11.5) are likely to see positive game flow at home. The Jets shut down CEH and the run game last week, but his disappointing 49.3% snap share should rise in a more competitive game.
GPP Play: James Robinson ($7.3k)
Robinson is the best correlation play to consider if stacking Deshaun Watson and Texans WRs in a tournament. The Jags have made a featured back with the largest opportunity share (83.7%) and eighth-most targets (32) among RBs. Houston is coughing up the second-most rushing YPG (165.9) at a league-high 5.2 YPC clip and the Jags should lean heavily on runs and short passes with rookie Jake Luton set to start.
Fade: Christian McCaffrey ($9.5k)
The Panthers hope to get their All-Pro RB back for a tough matchup at KC, but McCaffrey likely isn’t worth this price tag as he works his way back into football shape. The Chiefs rank seventh in DVOA pass defense and allow a modest 40.4 receiving YPG to opposing backs. They also haven’t allowed a receiving TD to a RB this season.
Best Play: Stefon Diggs ($7.6k)
Diggs is cheap because the Bills have gone with a run-heavy approach in 2 of their last 3 games due to weather. Yet he still leads all WRs with 79 targets and 545 completed Air Yards. Most teams would adjust their scheme to double a target hog like Diggs, but the Seahawks don’t ever seem to shift their coverages under Pete Carroll. The forecast calls for a sunny afternoon in the 60s at Orchard Park and Diggs should be Josh Allen’s main weapon in a potential shootout with Russell Wilson.
Value Play: Mike Williams ($6.2k)
While Keenan Allen is the Chargers top WR in terms of volume, Williams is their most reliable downfield threat. The 6-foot-4 receiver is averaging the fifth-largest distance (17.2 yards) per target and has drawn 341 Air Yards over his last 3 outings. Williams produced big lines against solid CBs Marshon Lattimore and A.J. Bouye, so he’s a great option against Trayvon Mullen and the rest of the Raiders secondary.
GPP Play: Adam Thielen ($7.7k)
Thielen is a top GPP option since he’s likely to see minimal ownership after Kirk Cousins attempted just 14 passes last week while Dalvin Cook ran wild. The Lions represent a different challenge and they’ve been gashed at the back end with top CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring) leading a list of secondary injuries. Detroit has allowed 65.4% of receptions to go for first downs and Thielen is third among WRs with a 43% share of his team’s Air Yards. He has sneaky upside in a game that opened with a 54-point implied total.
Fade: Tyreek Hill ($8.3k)
Hill has been a TD machine in Andy Reid’s offense this year and is justifiably expensive this week. But the Panthers are capable of slowing him down with speedy CB Donte Jackson helping hold opponents to a league-low average of 9.6 yards per reception. Carolina is more vulnerable in run defense and the Chiefs are capable of adjusting their scheme to pound the ground after going to the air against the lowly Jets.
Best Play: Travis Kelce ($8.0k)
Fading both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is a dangerous proposition given how the Chiefs are rolling right now. Kelce leads all TEs in targets (67), receiving yards (610), YAC (267), and TDs (6), so he’s obviously worth the money at a thin position. The Panthers have been better than expected against TEs following Luke Kuechly’s retirement, but are giving up 4.8 receptions per game to the position despite facing very few athletic TEs.
Value Play: Logan Thomas ($5.0k)
When Kyle Allen took over for Dwayne Haskins, Thomas became more involved in the red zone and caught a TD in each of Washington’s last 2 games before their bye. Thomas is third among TEs in route participation (92.6%) and has lined up in the slot on a league-high 232 snaps. That type of usage is exactly what we look for in a DFS play at the TE position.
GPP Play: Noah Fant ($5.8k)
The Broncos don’t necessarily have a top WR and Fant is clearly the favorite target for Drew Lock. Fant is sixth among TEs with a 20% red zone target share and third with 201 unrealized Air Yards. The Falcons have allowed a league-high 50 receptions and 8 TDs to opposing TEs, so the matchup can’t get any better for the athletic second-year player.
Fade: Mark Andrews ($6.6k)
At this price tag, Andrews almost needs to score a TD to meet value. Yet the Colts are the only team to not allow a single receiving TD to a TE and they rank fourth in DVOA pass defense. Marquise Brown has publicly complained about his usage and Lamar Jackson will likely look to spread the ball to his WRs when the most run-heavy team in the NFL even calls pass plays.