We’re officially in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game per team. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
With six teams on bye and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:
- Thursday Night Football: Raiders (Derek Carr) at 49ers (C.J. Beathard)
- Sunday Night Football: Packers (Aaron Rodgers) at Patriots (Tom Brady)
- Monday Night Football: Titans (Marcus Mariota) at Cowboys (Dak Prescott)
- Byes: Bengals (Andy Dalton), Colts (Andrew Luck), Giants (Eli Manning), Eagles (Carson Wentz), Cardinals (Josh Rosen), Jaguars (Blake Bortles)
For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).
In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each quarterback and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools. We’ll start with two high-priced quarterbacks, follow with one passer at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s starting quarterbacks.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
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This week, there are two quarterbacks at the top of the positional salary scale on DraftKings and FanDuel.
- Patrick Mahomes: $7,000 DraftKings; $9,200 FanDuel
- Cam Newton: $6,600 DraftKings; $8,100 FanDuel
Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs (-9) at Cleveland Browns, 51.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Tyreek Hill (groin) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.
Even with backups Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie starting at center and right guard, Mahomes was his typical MVP-level self last week, completing 70.6% of his passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns. From the first snap of the season, Mahomes has been a daily fantasy superstar.
- Week 8: QB2, 30.0 DraftKings points, +11.06 Plus/Minus
- Week 7: QB1, 36.8 DraftKings points, +24.31 Plus/Minus
- Week 6: QB2, 35.7 DraftKings points, +8.43 Plus/Minus
- Week 5: QB14, 20.8 DraftKings points, +6.29 Plus/Minus
- Week 4: QB11, 25.9 DraftKings points, +3.03 Plus/Minus
- Week 3: QB7, 28.3 DraftKings points, +12.79 Plus/Minus
- Week 2: QB2, 41.8 DraftKings points, +17.12 Plus/Minus
- Week 1: QB4, 28.3 DraftKings points, +10.19 Plus/Minus
Mahomes is the only quarterback in the league with a 100% Consistency Rating. He has 300 yards and/or four touchdowns passing in every game. Mahomes’ +11.59 Plus/Minus is an almost unprecedented mark.
Although they suffered their first defeat against the spread last week, the Chiefs have dominated this season. On a per-game basis, they have…
- Outscored their implied total by 8.7 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 8.9 points (No. 2)
- Surpassed their spread by 8.6 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs lead the league in scoring at 36.3 points per game, and Mahomes is foundational to their success. He is the first quarterback in NFL history with 26 passing touchdowns in his first nine NFL starts. (Hall of Fame member Kurt Warner is second list with 24, a mark he hit while leading the 1999 “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl-winning Rams.) Mahomes ranks first among all qualified quarterbacks with an 83.8 in ESPN’s Total QBR. Mahomes has been on such a touchdown tear that MyBookie has a prop on whether Mahomes will throw four-plus touchdowns this week.
Although the Browns have been laughably bad over the past two decades and just fired Hue Jackson, they are no laughing matter on defense under coordinator and now interim head coach Gregg Williams. The unit is first in the league with 22 turnovers, and it has top-three marks in time (2:16), plays (5.1) and yards (27.7) per drive. The Browns are first against the pass with a -20.6% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which is remarkable considering that just last season they were 26th (21.6%).
This marked improvement in pass defense is due to the development of 2017 No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett as an edge rusher (one sack per game), and especially the reconfiguration of the secondary: No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward has replaced Jason McCourty as the No. 1 cornerback. Jamar Taylor has been supplanted on the outside by cornerback E.J. Gaines. Slot cornerback T.J. Carrie has relegated Briean Boddy-Calhoun to the second team. Jabrill Peppers has shifted from free safety to strong safety, moving Derrick Kindred to the sideline, and Damarious Randall is now playing Peppers’ former position.
This is not the secondary of yesteryear. Mahomes has a tough matchup against the Cleveland defense.
On top of that, No. 1 wide receiver and supreme field stretcher Tyreek Hill (groin) suffered an injury late in Week 8. The severity of his injury is unknown, but Hill did not return to the game. A game-changing player, Hill is irreplaceable within the Chiefs offense. His injury status should be monitored closely throughout the week (which you can do here). If Hill is unable to play, Mahomes should be slightly downgraded as a fantasy option.
If Hill can play, however, the matchup (albeit tough) shouldn’t be prohibitive: Mahomes is that talented. With his unrivaled ball velocity (60 mph), Mahomes has quickly made a habit of attacking defenses deep. He’s No. 1 in the league with 49 deep pass attempts (20-plus yards), 24 deep completions and 768 deep-passing yards.
For a player with only nine career starts, he’s been incredibly poised in the pocket. Mahomes has been pressured on 34.7% of his dropbacks, but his 9.3% sack rate on such plays is the league’s second-lowest mark. And with a clean pocket, he’s No. 1 with a 136.3 QB Rating (Pro Football Focus). Chiefs coach Andy Reid has done a magnificent job scheming to Mahomes’ strengths, streamlining his reads and enabling him to get the ball out quickly.
When Mahomes can simply take the snap, focus immediately on his receivers and throw the ball, he’s maybe the best quarterback in the league. On passes with no play action, he’s No. 1 with a 121.0 QB Rating. When holding the ball for fewer than 2.5 seconds in the pocket, he’s again No. 1 with a 137.9 QB Rating (PFF).
On Sunday morning, I will probably look to bet the over on Mahomes’ passing yardage prop. He’s hit the over in seven of eight games this season. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 169-80-6, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Cam Newton: Carolina Panthers (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 54.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee) is out.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Evan Silva highlighted Newton as his no-doubt cash-game quarterback for the week. It’s easy to see why Evan is bullish on Newton.
While there were concerns at the start of the season about how well offensive coordinator Norv Turner would be able to adapt his Air Coryell system to Newton, the 2015 MVP is on pace for career highs with his 66.4% completion rate and 8.9 carries per game. He’s also being sacked at a career-low rate of 4.0%. Even though he doesn’t have a true No. 1 alpha receiver, he does have:
- An elite pass-catching running back in Christian McCaffrey
- A reliable and longtime middle-of-the-field option in tight end Greg Olsen
- A contested-catch playmaker in wide receiver Devin Funchess
- A veteran field-stretcher in wide receiver Torrey Smith
- An emerging 21-year-old first-rounder in wide receiver D.J. Moore
- A Percy Harvin clone and versatile offensive weapon in wide receiver Curtis Samuel
Newton has the players around him to succeed. In his five healthy seasons, he’s been a top-four fantasy quarterback, and he’s looking to accomplish that feat again with his average of 25.1 DraftKings points per game.
What’s perhaps most amazing about Newton’s performance is how he’s been able to overcome the roster issues around him. Continuity is crucial along the offensive line, and three of last season’s starters are not on the field: Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee, injured reserve) was sidelined before the regular season, right tackle Daryl Williams (knee, IR) has missed most of the season and 2017 All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell is on the Jaguars. Even so, Newton is on pace for one of the best campaigns of his career.
Unsurprisingly, a large portion of Newton’s value comes from his rushing production. On a per-game basis, he leads all quarterbacks with 5.6 expected fantasy points as a runner (per the RotoViz Screener). First on the team with four rushing touchdowns and second with 62 carries and 309 yards on the ground, Newton is basically his own short-yardage back, which isn’t surprising: He’s first among all quarterbacks in league history with 58 rushing touchdowns and second to only Michael Vick with 39.9 yards rushing per game. Newton is viable in almost any game environment because of his running ability.
And he’s more than viable this week: He’s outright desirable.
While Newton has been a splits-agnostic player throughout his career …
- Home/Away (58/58 games): 24.1 fantasy points vs. 24.4
- Favorite/Underdog (63/53 games): 24.3 fantasy points vs. 24.2
- Division/Non-Division (40/76): 24.1 fantasy points vs. 24.3
… he is in a smash spot this week as a big home favorite against the divisional rival Bucs, who are dead last in the league in pass defense with a 43.8% DVOA and have allowed quarterbacks to score a league-high 28.6 DraftKings points per game. They have allowed 300 yards and/or multiple touchdowns to every passer they’ve faced. They’ve also allowed the two running quarterbacks they’ve played against to go for more than 40 yards rushing each: Mitchell Trubisky for 53 yards and Baker Mayfield for 43.
Newton could be without Smith (knee), who missed Week 8 and is questionable for Week 9, but that might actually benefit the Panthers because it will force them to give Moore extra playing time.
The Bucs defense is also not without its own injury concerns: Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder), strong safety Chris Conte (knee) and linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee) are all on IR. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf) and starting edge rusher Vinny Curry (ankle) both missed Weeks 7-8 and are questionable, too. And rookie slot cornerback M.J. Stewart (leg) exited Week 8 early and is uncertain to play.
On top of that, it’s possible that the Bucs have the league’s worst trio of starting cornerbacks. Brent Grimes was a Pro Bowler with the Dolphins in the 2013-15 seasons, and in 2016-17 he had above-average PFF coverage grades of 87.4 and 75.2. This season, though, Grimes has been a liability in the five games he’s played, allowing a 17-241-1 passing line on 24 targets.
As for Stewart and Carlton Davis, both are second-round rookies with potential, but right now they have poor PFF coverage grades of 55.8 and 59.3. One day they might be good, but so far they’ve combined to surrender a 51-620-7 passing line with no interceptions on 70 attempts.
It’s notable that, while the Bucs have had one of the league’s worst defenses since 2016 (under head coach Dirk Koetter), Newton has surprisingly struggled against them over that span:
- Against Bucs (three games): 13.8 DraftKings points, -5.00 Plus/Minus, 183.7 yards and 0.67 touchdowns passing, 1.67 interceptions, 34 yards and 0.33 touchdowns rushing
- Against all other teams (35 games): 21.0 DraftKings points, +1.25 Plus/Minus, 225.5 yards and 1.49 touchdowns passing, 0.83 interceptions, 37.5 yards and 0.40 touchdowns rushing
Still, I don’t want to put too much weight on a three-game sample, especially since the Bucs are the worst they’ve ever been this season and Newton didn’t have Turner as his coordinator in the previous games.
If you roster Newton in guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack him with McCaffrey, who leads the team with 52 targets and 44 receptions. In Week 8, even though they combined for 49.6 DraftKings points, Newton and McCaffrey were rostered together in just 0.34% of Millionaire Maker lineups. Since 2014, NFL quarterbacks on average have had a 0.40 correlation with their No. 1 running backs. With McCaffrey, Newton has a 0.77 mark.
Newton leads all quarterbacks with his three Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he has position-high median and ceiling projections and is the No. 1 overall option on all our Pro Models. For good measure, he’s also the top DraftKings quarterback in the Bales, CUSRAM88, Raybon and Freedman Models.
Besides Newton, there’s one quarterback atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
Jared Goff: Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) at New Orleans Saints, 59.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.
- $6,000 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
The undefeated Rams are entrenched as the No. 1 team in The Action Network’s NFL Power Rankings. They have hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-24 games under beard model and head coach Sean McVay since last season. They are significant +160 favorites to win the Super Bowl.
But apparently that’s not good enough for the betting public. Although the Rams opened as -1 favorites, they are -1.5 dogs as of writing (see live odds here).
The Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game last season, and this season they have improved to an average of 33.0. That will almost certainly regress, but this offense is as good as any unit in the league, and the non-acting Ryan Gosling lookalike at quarterback has a lot to do with it: Goff has at least 300 yards and/or multiple touchdowns passing in 14-of-16 regular-season starts since last season’s Week 8 bye. Deployed in a high-efficiency, fantasy-friendly way, Goff has used play action on a league-leading 38.4% of his attempts. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick is one of only three quarterbacks this season to be, at worst, a league-average passer to each section of the field. The other two are Rodgers and Philip Rivers (per Next Gen Stats).
While Goff has completed just 58.6% of his pass attempts over his past three starts and will play his fourth road game in five weeks, he has also been without his fair-haired doppelgänger and slot wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) since the first half of Week 6, and McVay is reportedly optimistic that Kupp will return this week. Plus, if a team has to be on the road, there’s pretty much no better place to play than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, otherwise known as the Coors Field of fantasy football. Unsurprisingly, the Saints-Rams matchup is tied for the highest over/under of all time.
Even on the road, Goff is in a good spot against the Saints defense, which is a quarterback-friendly funnel that ranks second against the run (-28.0% DVOA) but 29th against the pass (29.8% DVOA) and has surrendered a top-four mark of 26.7 DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks. It’s fair to wonder if the Saints pass defense is as bad as those numbers suggest. After all, in 5-of-7 games the Saints have held opponents to fewer than 24 points, and in four games they’ve held quarterbacks to fewer than 20 DraftKings points with a 25% Consistency Rating. At times, the 2017 defense that was fifth in pass DVOA (-11.3%) has been almost visible.
But here’s the thing: Those four games were against the mediocre-at-best quartet of Tyrod Taylor (Week 2), Eli Manning (Week 4), Alex Smith (Week 5) and Joe Flacco (Week 7), and those four collectively had a positive Plus/Minus (+0.22). So in the aggregate, four subpar quarterbacks did what their salaries suggested they would do — and in the other three games, the Saints were dominated by above-average (but not elite) quarterbacks.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (Week 1): 45.3 DraftKings points, 417-4-0 passing, 12-36-1 rushing
- Matt Ryan (Week 3): 43.2 DraftKings points, 374-5-0 passing, 4-12-0 rushing
- Kirk Cousins (Week 8): 24.7 DraftKings points, 359-2-1 passing, 2-3-0 rushing
It’s possible that the recent addition of 2016 first-round cornerback Eli Apple will improve the secondary — but that’s not especially likely, given that Apple underachieved with the Giants last season (59.0 PFF coverage grade) and was acquired for just fourth- and seventh-round picks. In his first game with the Saints last week, Apple allowed an 8-79-0 passing line on eight targets and 48 coverage snaps. He’s unlikely to be the savior.
And No. 1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore is yet to regain the form that won him Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, when he allowed just 583 scoreless yards and a 53.8% completion rate on passes in his coverage. This season, quarterbacks have completed 65.7% of their attempts against him for 315 yards and two touchdowns. And there’s no need to detail the depths of slot man P.J. Williams’s shortcomings. Among starting corners he has a bottom-two 30.7 PFF coverage grade. In just 193 coverage snaps, he has allowed a 25-352-5 receiving line on 32 targets.
And as if all of that weren’t bad enough, the Saints are 30th in pass defense against running backs with a 27.2% DVOA. The team’s two primary coverage linebackers, A.J. Klein and Demario Davis, have allowed a combined 84.4% completion rate in their coverage.
Even if Kupp doesn’t return, the pass-catching entourage of wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds, along with Todd Gurley, should be capable of allowing Goff to exploit this pass defense.
Last week, Goff had a position-high 13.43% ownership rate in the low-stakes $500K Slant on DraftKings, and we’re expecting him to be popular again this week. Goff has a position-high 10 Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for the second week in a row.
Here’s a quick look at the remaining starters on the slate.
Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans (PK) at Denver Broncos, 46 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) is out.
- $6,300 DraftKings; $7,900 FanDuel
Watson will be without wide receiver Will Fuller (knee, out for season). The sample is small, but in his three starts without the field-stretching playmaker, Watson has averaged just 18.6 DraftKings points per game compared to his 27.2 average in 11 games with him. On the plus side, slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) is tentatively expected to return after missing Week 7. Also, Watson will get the “benefit” of throwing to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in a #RevengeGame for the recently acquired veteran. (Read: Irony.)
Other than All-Pro slot cornerback Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos don’t have one defensive back or linebacker in their dime personnel with a PFF coverage grade of even 70, and cornerback Bradley Roby (ankle), safety Darian Stewart (neck) and linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) are all questionable.
Kirk Cousins: Minnesota Vikings (-4.5) vs. Detroit Lions, 49 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (ribs) is expected not to play. Running back Dalvin Cook (hamstring) is expected to play 8-12 snaps.
- $6,200 DraftKings; $8,300 FanDuel
The $84 million man is having the best season of his career with a personal-high 70.7% completion rate and 315.1 yards and two passing touchdowns per game. Although Cousins has attempted passes of 20-plus yards on just 10.3% of his throws, he has an NFL-high 10 deep-passing touchdowns. And with one of the best receiving tandems in the league, Cousins has given the combo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs an NFL-high 181 targets.
Even with shadow cornerback Darius Slay, the Lions have the league’s second-worst PFF coverage grade (49.8). Of any cornerback still seeing playing time, Teez Tabor has an NFL-low 30.7 PFF coverage grade. In his four games as a starter, he’s allowed 13-231-3 passing on 16 targets.
Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints (-1.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 59.5 O/U
- $6,100 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
The Saints lead all teams with their 31.0-point implied Vegas total, and Brees is in a great spot to leverage his famed home/away splits against a Rams defense with a vulnerable secondary.
Since Week 3, when he suffered a calf injury that he has continued to play through, cornerback Marcus Peters has given up 420 yards and five touchdowns with a 76.7% completion rate. The Rams have the league’s third-highest PFF coverage grade (86.4), but with Peters hobbled and cornerback Aqib Talib (ankle, IR) out, they are exploitable.
Brees easily leads the league with his 77.4% completion rate, 86.4% accuracy rate from a clean pocket and 141.1 QB Rating on deep passes. He’s exceeded his expected completion percentage by an NFL-best 8.4% margin. A fantasy-friendly venue, the Superdome has an A-graded 57-40-2 over/under record with Brees at quarterback, good for a 14.9% return on investment for over bettors since 2006, when Brees joined the Saints (per Bet Labs).
Even though Brees has averaged only 27.3 pass attempts per game since the return of running back Mark Ingram (suspension), that number is low relative to Brees’ average last season (33.5) or since 2014 (39.1), when Ingram became the team’s clear lead back. I’m betting on a pass-driven high-scoring game.
Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 48 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Chris Carson (hip) is reportedly a game-time decision.
- $5,900 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
The Seahawks are the league’s least pass-happy team with a 47.8% pass rate, and he’s attempted just 20.3 passes per week over his past three games, but DangeRuss has been exactly that since Week 5, throwing three touchdowns in each game and averaging an outrageous 13.2 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) over that time.
Wilson is yet to hit 300 yards passing in any game, and he’s averaging a career-low 2.7 rushes and 11.0 rushing yards per game, but he’s a home favorite and now has perhaps the best wide receivers of his career with the veteran Doug Baldwin, explosive Tyler Lockett and potential-laden David Moore.
Wilson has an NFL-high 132.6 QB Rating and 12 touchdowns passing when he holds the ball for more than 2.6 seconds in the pocket, and the Chargers have struggled to apply consistent pressure without edge rusher Joey Bosa (foot), who was originally expected to be healthy coming out of the bye week but is now doubtful to play.
Mitchell Trubisky: Chicago Bears (-10) at Buffalo Bills, 37.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin) is questionable after practicing on a limited basis on Friday.
- $5,800 DraftKings; $7,800 FanDuel
Trubisky did little last week in a game impacted by 18 mph winds, but he’s averaged 305.8 yards and 3.25 touchdowns passing, 58 yards and 0.25 touchdowns rushing, and a slate-high 34.0 DraftKings points per game since Week 4. Trubisky is downright Bortles-esque at times in his style of play and decision-making, but he’s an in-process second-year passer. That he’s been able to produce at this level while still exhibiting such rawness is impressive.
But this week he might be someone to avoid. The Bills are fourth against the pass with a -11.4% DVOA, and the Bears will definitely be without right guard Kyle Long (foot), and could also be missing left guard Eric Kush (neck) and wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin), both of whom missed last week and are questionable for this week.
Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) at Washington Redskins, 47 O/U
- $5,700 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
Ryan has been a splits-agnostic passer since the team drafted wide receiver Julio Jones in 2011 — 22.6 fantasy points per game at home and 22.3 on the road — but this season Ryan has struggled mightily in his two games outside of the dome-controlled environment of Mercedes-Benz Stadium (35.0 at home vs. 15.8 on the road). Additionally, the Redskins are fifth with an 85.0 PFF coverage grade.
Even so, Ryan is intriguing. The Redskins will likely be without right cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin) for a third consecutive game, which means that Jones is expected to line up for about half of his snaps against backup Greg Stroman, a seventh-round rookie who has allowed a 10-190-2 receiving line on 17 targets and 113 coverage snaps.
Coming off the bye, Ryan has a position-high 99% Bargain Rating on DraftKings.
Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) at Baltimore Ravens, 47.5 O/U
- $5,700 DraftKings; $7,800 FanDuel
Roethlisberger has drastic home/away and division/non-division splits in his career. Even with wide receiver Antonio Brown playing at an All-Pro level each season since 2014, Roethlisberger in that time has averaged 16.4 DraftKings points per game with a -2.95 Plus/Minus and 35.7% Consistency Rating as a divisional visitor — and 11.2 DraftKings points per game in Baltimore against the divisional rival Ravens. This season, the Ravens have held quarterbacks to a bottom-three mark of 16.3 DraftKings points per game.
Roethlisberger (finger) has a fractured digit on his non-throwing hand. He’s fully expected to play, but he might be marginally limited and forced to take more shotgun snaps.
Philip Rivers: Los Angeles Chargers (+1.5) at Seattle Seahawks, 48 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Melvin Gordon (hamstring) is expected to play after practicing fully on Friday.
- $5,600 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
Coming off the bye, Rivers is the only passer in the league with multiple touchdowns passing in every game he’s played this season, and he leads the NFL with QB Ratings of 118.5 when under pressure and 158.3 with play action. But the Seahawks defense has seemingly been rebuilt on the fly, holding opponents to a league-best 4.21 points below their implied totals on a per-game basis.
The Seahawks have limited quarterbacks to a bottom-two mark of 16.1 DraftKings points per game, and they are third against the pass with a -12.3% DVOA.
Baker Mayfield: Cleveland Browns (+9) vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 51.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Antonio Callaway (ankle) suffered an injury in the Thursday practice and sat on Friday. He is officially questionable but seems unlikely to play. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee) got in limited practice sessions on Thursday and Friday and could play through his questionable tag after missing the past three games.
- $5,600 DraftKings; $7,400 FanDuel
Head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have been fired. Teams generally see something of a bounce-back after the in-season dismissal of underachieving coaches. Interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has no play-calling experience at any level, but he’s a Bruce Arians disciple who has eight games to show 32 teams what he can do with a young and talented quarterback: He might encourage Mayfield to indulge his downfield tendencies and play with enhanced aggressiveness.
The Chiefs have allowed a top-six mark of 23.6 DraftKings points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and they will be without linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ribs) and maybe edge rusher Justin Houston (hamstring) and safety Eric Berry (heel), both of whom are questionable and have missed multiple games in a row.
Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions (+4.5) at Minnesota Vikings, 49 O/U
- $5,600 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
Early this week the Lions traded No. 1 wide receiver Golden Tate, so Stafford will be without his longtime middle-of-the-field catch-and-run playmaker. Still, Stafford has plenty of leftover pass-catching talent in wide receivers Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. Backups T.J. Jones and Brandon Powell will likely take Tate’s vacated snaps in the slot.
While the Vikings defense isn’t as good as it has been and could be, it has held Stafford to just 14.9 DraftKings points per game with a -3.14 Plus/Minus and 25.0% Consistency Rating in eight games under defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. In fact, under Zimmer, the Vikings have been the least friendly team to visiting quarterbacks, holding them to league-low marks of 13.9 DraftKings points per game, a -3.56 Plus/Minus and an embarrassing 16.7% Consistency Rating.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) at Carolina Panthers, 54.5 O/U
- $5,500 DraftKings; $7,100 FanDuel
Fitz is the carousel quarterback of the week and an intriguing option given the collection of pass-catching talent he has in wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries to go with tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
Fitz leads the league with his 11.0 AY/A and 11.8-yard average depth of target, and in his three complete games this season he’s averaged an NFL-best 36.8 DraftKings points per game. There’s always a question as to whether Fitz will be magical enough to avoid a mid-game benching, but in his 10 Bucs appearances with a snap rate of at least 25%, Fitz has still managed 21.1 DraftKings points per game.
Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens (-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 47.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and right tackle James Hurst (back) are out, and left guard Alex Lewis (neck) is questionable. He has missed the past two games, but he practiced limitedly on Thursday and Friday and seems likely to play.
- $5,300 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
Flacco is averaging a career-best 282.4 passing yards per game thanks primarily to new wide receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. Flacco is also on the positive side of his home/away, favorite/underdog and division/non-division splits, averaging 19.7 DraftKings points per game as a divisional home favorite since offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg joined the Ravens in 2015.
Against Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s stop unit, Flacco has averaged just 15.9 DraftKings points across six games. But in Week 4, Flacco had a strong 363-2-0 passing performance on the road in a 26-14 win over the Steelers. And since last season (including playoffs), the Steelers defense has been significantly worse without Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier, allowing 26.0 points and 355.8 scrimmage yards per game to opponents.
In his two games against the Steelers since Shazier’s injury, Flacco has averaged 21.5 DraftKings points per game.
Ryan Tannehill & Brock Osweiler: Miami Dolphins (-3) vs. New York Jets, 45 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Tannehill (shoulder) is out.
- Tannehill: $5,200 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Osweiler: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
Tannehill (shoulder) is uncertain for this week and seems likely to miss his fourth game in a row. In his absence, Osweiler will continue to mime an NFL quarterback to perfection. Against the Jets in Week 2, the Dolphins scored 20 points in victory, and Tannehill had 168 yards passing with two touchdown throws.
Alex Smith: Washington Redskins (-1.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons, 47 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Chris Thompson (ribs) and wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) are out. Wide receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) is questionable but seems likely to play after limited practice on Thursday and Friday. Let tackle Trent Williams (thumb) is out.
- $5,000 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
This season, 29 quarterbacks have at least one game with 300 or more yards passing. Smith isn’t one of them.
The Redskins are disinclined to throw the ball with their bottom-four 53.4% pass rate, but Smith could be in a rare spot to produce against the Falcons, who are 28th in pass defense with a 29.4% DVOA.
The Falcons defense has suffered a rash of injuries this season: Middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot, IR), free safety Keanu Neal (knee, IR) and strong safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles, IR) are all out. Since the Falcons lost Jones and Neal in Week 1, quarterbacks have routinely exposed Atlanta, averaging 31.0 DraftKings points per game with a +13.58 Plus/Minus and 100% Consistency Rating.
Case Keenum: Denver Broncos (PK) vs. Houston Texans, 46 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Royce Freeman (ankle) is expected not to play.
- $4,900 DraftKings; $6,800 FanDuel
Now that the Browns have fired Jackson, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is the worst ATS coach in the league, to the surprise of no one. The recent trade of inefficient franchise mainstay Demaryius Thomas should create extra opportunities for young, potential up-and-comers in wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton, who in turn could heighten Keenum’s fantasy upside.
But at the age of 30, Keenum is basically what he is at this point. With the Vikings last season, Keenum had 17.2 DraftKings points per game with a +1.46 DraftKings Plus/Minus, but in all his other starts since 2014, he’s averaged 13.7 and -1.49.
Sam Darnold: New York Jets (+3) at Miami Dolphins, 45 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle) are both questionable and reportedly optimistic about playing after missing multiple weeks of action. Running back Elijah McGuire (foot) has been activated from injured reserve and is expected to play.
- $4,800 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
Darnold passed for a career-high 334 yards against these Dolphins in Week 2, but he’s passed for fewer than 200 yards in all of his road games. This week he could also be without wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle), both of whom are questionable and have already missed game action with their injuries.
Nathan Peterman: Buffalo Bills (+10) vs. Chicago Bears, 37.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Peterman (interceptions) is still expected to start and still perhaps the worst quarterback in NFL history to start multiple games.
- $4,000 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
Randy Hedberg was an eighth-round rookie quarterback out of small Minot State in North Dakota. He started four games and played in three others for the hapless Buccaneers in 1977, their second season of existence. He completed just 27.8% of his 90 attempts and had an abominable 0-10 TD-INT ratio, to say nothing of the 131 yards he lost on 15 sacks.
He never played another NFL snap after that season, eventually leaving the league with a -2.3 AY/A and 0.0 QB Rating. He’s had great success as a quarterbacks coach at the college level — he was Carson Wentz’s position coach when the North Dakota State Bison won back-to-back FCS National Championships in 2014-15 — but, statistically, Hedberg is probably the worst NFL quarterback of all time.
Here’s why I mention Hedberg: Peterman might be worse.
It’s not every day we get to witness history.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 9 positional breakdowns.
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After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.
Pictured above: Cam Newton
Photo credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports